Blackhawks

Stalberg hopeful to keep hot streak against Columbus alive

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Stalberg hopeful to keep hot streak against Columbus alive

COLUMBUS, Ohio Viktor Stalberg is attracted to the Columbus Blue Jackets goal like a bull is to a red cape.

The Blackhawks forward just has a penchant for scoring against Columbus, be it here or in Chicago. Of the 43 points he tallied last season, 10 (eight goals, two assists) came in six games against the Blue Jackets. He was a plus-11 in those six games, too.

Its more of a fluke than anything. You just get a little more confidence against certain teams and certain goalies, Stalberg said Saturday morning. But they have a lot of new players this year so Im sure it wont be the same. But Ill look to continue scoring and stay on this good start.

Columbus or not, Stalberg is off to a solid start this season with two goals in the Blackhawks first four games. Stalberg is looking to build off last years numbers of 22 goals and 21 assists. And with Columbus, theres always a chance it could be a multi-point night.

Thats a fluky stat. With some guys, its whether theyre charmed or lucky against certain opponents. The pucks go in for him (against Columbus), coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes quick off the rush and has a dangerous and sneaky shot. Hes gotten power-play time based on how he performed the last couple of years.

Stalberg has been on the Blackhawks power play through the first four games after seeing very, very little time there last season. His first two goals this season were also 5 on 5, but Stalberg said is adjusting to his new man-advantage role.

Its a learning curve to be in front, knowing where to line up and find that shooting lane, Stalberg said. But Ive been trying to do my job and not rush plays too much. If I get it, Ill just be poised with it and try to get to loose pucks.

Quenneville said Stalbergs done well on the power play, as well as on the more defensive-minded third line.

That lines been effective; they all bring something different, Quenneville said of Stalberg, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. Viktors got good speed, and theyve had a lot of offensive zone shifts as well. Hes learning the position and mentality of being front-net guy on the power play. Its a work in progress but so far, so good.

Stalberg will approach Columbus tonight like he does any other team. If he keeps getting goals against them, so be it.

Well see what happens; its a new season, he said. I had a couple good games against them last year and hopefully itll continue.

Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup champion Michal Handzus to retire from professional hockey

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AP

Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup champion Michal Handzus to retire from professional hockey

Michal Handzus, who helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in 2013 as the second-line center, is officially hanging up the skates.

The 41-year-old forward hasn't played in the NHL since the 2013-14 season but spent the last three years with Banska Bystrica HC 05 in Slovakia, where he was a part of the championship-winning team in 2016-17. He sat out the 2017-18 campaign and has decided to call it quits for good.

Handzus played with six teams in his first 13 NHL seasons, including eight games with the Blackhawks in 2006-07, before getting reacquired by Chicago in 2013 at the trade deadline for a fourth-round draft pick and it turned out to be one of the more underrated acquisitions in the league that year. He had one goal and five assists in 11 regular-season games, then accumulated 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 23 postseason contests and found himself in the center of all the big moments.

In Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings, with the Blackhawks trailing the series 3-2, Handzus scored a crucial goal on the road in the opening minute of the third period to tie it up at 2-2, a game the Blackhawks went on to win to force a Game 7 back in Chicago. (We all know what the final result was in that one).

In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, with the Blackhawks trailing the series again 2-1, Handzus set the tone early on the road by scoring the game's first goal shorthanded when he buried a feed from Brandon Saad before taking a hard spill into the boards in an eventual 6-5 victory:

And then of course in Game 6, Handzus was the extra attacker for the first of two goals scored 17 seconds apart in Boston as the Blackhawks captured their second Stanley Cup in four years:

It was the first Stanley Cup win of Handzus' career, so naturally, he was the first player to receive Lord Stanley from captain Jonathan Toews:

That's not all.

Handzus re-signed with the Blackhawks on a one-year deal for the 2013-14 season, which would be his last in the NHL, and gave Chicago this double-overtime goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final to keep the Blackhawks' hopes alive:

Handzus isn't the name who jumps out when you think of the three titles in six years run but he's a player that certainly made strong contributions in a Blackhawks sweater and delivered in key playoff moments.

Chris Chelios joins Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field to honor Stan Mikita

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AP

Chris Chelios joins Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field to honor Stan Mikita

The city of Chicago lost a sports icon earlier this month when Stan Mikita died at the age of 78 after a long illness. He's the all-time leading scorer in Blackhawks history with 1,467 points, but perhaps more importantly made as much of an impact off the ice as he did on it.

Former Blackhawks defenseman and current team ambassador Chris Chelios joined Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field on Monday night, holding up a red No. 21 Mikita sweater to pay tribute to a Chicago legend.

Lead vocalist Eddie Vedder even dedicated the song "Come Back" to Mikita and his family, with the help of thousands of fans who paid homage by holding up their cell phones:

A touching moment.