CHICAGO -- Viktor Stalberg
is coming close to fully replacing the guy he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks
for in the first place.
The 26-year old Stalberg, a speedy Swedish forward, was dealt to the Windy City by the Toronto Maple Leafs
in the summer of 2010 in exchange for Kris Versteeg
. The deal happened not long after Versteeg helped the Hawks win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years and was done primarily as a way to cut payroll in order for Chicago to get below the League's hard salary cap.
Versteeg, 25, spent parts of three seasons with the Hawks -- who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2004 NHL Draft (134th overall). He scored 22 and 20 goals in two full campaigns wth Chicago, while Stalberg didn't play his first full season in the League until last year with the Hawks -- scoring 12 goals and adding 12 assists in 77 games.
Heading into a Sunday night matchup against the visiting Washington Capitals
at United Center (7 p.m., NBCSN HD), Staberg already has 17 goals and 19 assists with 10 games left in the regular season.
"I think I've had a pretty good year so far," Stalberg said of his career high numbers. "There was a stretch here after the All Star break that I wasn't happy with, but ... other than that, I think it's been a good year. I've been more consistent in putting up points and I'm just playing the game a lot better, too, night in and night out. That shows up in the stats, as well."
Reaching the 20-goal plateau is something that is on his mind, but not at the forefront of his thoughts.
"To be honest, I don't know if it matters too much at this point of the season," Stalberg said. "Right now, it's about winning games. It'd be kind of nice to get to, but if I get to 19 I'd be pretty happy with that, too ... or whatever it might be. As long as we get into the playoffs and put ourselves in a good spot, I think you're happy with that. But if you're scoring goals, it's going to help us win games, so [20 goals] is certainly something I want to reach and I think I've got a good chance of doing it in the last 10 games."
It doesn't hurt that Chicago still has one game left against the Columbus Blue Jackets
on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena. Stalberg has torched the Blue Jackets this season by scoring eight goals and adding one assist with two game-winning markers in the first five meetings.
"You develop as a player, not just figuring out where to go or not to go and how to use your assets when you get to those areas, but I think it's a maturity thing too," Stalberg said. "You have more confidence, you get some more ice time and play with better players. It starts to take off from there."