CHICAGO -- The Viktor Stalberg saga took another little turn Thursday afternoon at United Center, when Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville met with reporters a day after Chicago's 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings in the opening game of the Western Conference Semifinal series.
Quenneville denied the accuracy of a report Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune that Stalberg, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, was being punished. The report, citing an unidentified source, said Stalberg approached an unnamed Blackhawks coach about his diminished role on the power play in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Minnesota Wild.
After logging more than two minutes a game on the man-advantage during 47 games of the regular season, Stalberg averaged 11 seconds of power-play time while playing all five games against the Wild. Quenneville, who did have a conversation with the speedy third-line wing about the situation, was asked directly about the report Thursday by the Tribune's Chris Kuc. The coach categorically denied its validity.
"First of all, that story is 100 percent inaccurate," Quenneville said. "Viktor didn't play and he knows the reasons why. It had nothing to do with anything about our conversation. It was strictly nothing to do with that at all."
The Blackhawks didn't practice Thursday, but Stalberg has worn a white practice jersey since the end of the first round series against Minnesota -- the color worn by those first returning to the ice from injury or likely to be a healthy scratch.
Stalberg, a pending unrestricted free agent, scored nine goals and added 14 assists for Chicago in the regular season. He held the role of right wing on the third line almost all year, which is why his benching developed into a storyline. The addition of gritty center Dave Bolland to the mix for Game 1 against Detroit -- a noted playoff pest who played a strong game against the Red Wings -- also created a crowded lineup for Quenneville.
Bolland missed the entire first round with a lower-body injury and played most of the season centering the second line. Michal Handzus owns that role for now, so Bolland bumped down to the third group and shifted Andrew Shaw from center to right wing.
Quenneville could've put Stalberg on the fourth line, but the only spot open was at left wing and the coach opted to go with the gritty, physical game of Daniel Carcillo, who assisted on Marcus Kruger's goal in the third period that made it 3-1, Chicago.
"With [Bolland] coming back, I thought we had progressed in the last couple of games in the Minnesota series and someone had to come out," Quenneville said. "You look at every situation and you've got a good argument for a number of guys, but I'm not going to get into those arguments. There were some strong considerations."