After making their cases for being included on the Chicago Blackhawks' roster to start the season, several players are now riding the bubble following the team's preseason finale at home on Sunday night.
Defenseman Brian Campbell's recent knee injury, which will keep him out 4-5 weeks, all but settled the defense picture -- but there are still too many forwards for the salary-cap squeezed Hawks to carry. The battle to stay appears to be down to 24-year old forward Viktor Stalberg and veteran center Ryan Potulny -- a free agent pick-up from Edmonton. Rookie Jeremy Morin, 19, was assigned to Rockford of the AHL on Monday.
Stalberg and Morin played in Sunday's 4-3 win against St. Louis, with each adding an assist. Potulny didn't play in the final two exhibition games at home after recording a minus-2 rating on Thursday at St. Louis.
Young forward Jack Skille also missed the past two games with an arm injury, but is expected to be back before the Hawks set their roster for Thursday's season opener at Colorado.
"We've got a couple decisions to make," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Sunday's game.
"It was a good experience, the first time with the Blackhawks, and I think it went well. I had a pretty good preseason and we'll see what happens in the future. It's their decision, but I left it all on the table. That's all I can do."
-- Jeremy Morin
"It was a good experience, the first time with the Blackhawks, and I think it went well," Morin said of his first NHL training camp, prior to being sent to Rockford. "I had a pretty good preseason and we'll see what happens in the future. It's their decision, but I left it all on the table. That's all I can do."
Stalberg, who came to Chicago in a deal this summer that sent Kris Versteeg to Toronto, picked up his production and pace after a slow start. He finished the preseason with two assists and a minus-1 rating in six games.
"Obviously you're a little tense and want to find out what's going to happen, but you can't really do too much about it," he said of waiting for final cuts. "You've got to put your best effort out there and just go with it. I showed them what I wanted to show them the last couple of games, and hopefully that will be enough."
Hawks look good with extra skater: Chicago finished the preseason strong by scoring six goals in 15 power plays in the last three preseason games -- including a 3-for-7 performance in Sunday's game. That was on the heels of a 2-for-2 performance against Pittsburgh on Friday.
Neither the Penguins nor St. Louis had their full starting lineups on the ice in those games, but Quenneville looks at the success as a good sign regardless.
"Whether they're going in (during) the preseason or not, we should be able to produce regularly," he said. "We'll take what went on here in the past couple of games."
Quenneville also stressed the importance of producing goals with the extra skater, especially early, for a team that had a lot of its proven quality depth dismantled in the offseason because of the salary cap.
"The power play is something that we're going to have to rely on this year," he said. "It's a key part of our team and where our success is going to come from. That's where we're looking for some production. Our personnel is capable of improving off of last year's numbers, and we've got a lot of looks. Both of the units should be able to produce regularly."
The young leading the younger: Jonathan Toews might still be 22, but with all that he's already accomplished and his captain status, he's a logical choice to take the Hawks' youngest prospects -- 19-year olds Leddy and Morin -- under his wing.
Toews also played for the Hawks when he was 19.
"It's just about reminding them of when they do positive things out there," Toews said. "I was obviously lucky enough to play with a good group of older guys that were very helpful and didn't really get on my back much. I'll try to do the same with them and let them know when they're doing some good things. Whether it's now or later, I think they belong at this level and will be able to help our team down the road."