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Stalberg could find himself watching start of series

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Viktor Stalberg has practiced outside of the top four lines, in a white jersey, for each of the three practices the Chicago Blackhawks have held since winning their Western Conference Quarterfinal series last week.

That's usually a designation for a player who is injured -- meaning it's a non-contact jersey -- or for those who aren't being considered for the active lineup. The Blackhawks open their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and Stalberg isn’t injured.

So that can mean only one thing: He’s in coach Joel Quenneville's doghouse for some reason, likely based on his play in the first round against the Minnesota Wild. The only way to get out is to wait for another chance to impress, after finishing the first series with one assist.

"Stay ready," Quenneville said Tuesday when asked what Stalberg can do to get himself back on his usual spot at right wing of the third line. "Nobody said he's out of the lineup (for Game 1), but … make decisions tough on us."

The decision for Stalberg to wear the white jersey, however, sounds like it's been tough on him, and he was not in a mood to talk much about it after Tuesday’s practice.

"I don't really have anything to say about it … ask Q," Stalberg said.

Asked if he'd assessed his play from the first round, Stalberg was equally as brief.

"We won 4-1, right?" he said. "So that's good."

Stalberg, who scored nine goals and had 14 assists in 47 games this season, is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. That aspect of his game usually plays well against the Red Wings, who have amped up the speed of their third line by adding Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner on either side of center Joakim Andersson.

Stalberg scored a goal, had two assists and was a plus-1 in four games against Detroit this season, including a pretty stick lift and dish to Patrick Kane for a goal that tied the first game at Joe Louis Arena -- forcing overtime then a shootout Kane won for Chicago.

"I think I've had some of my best games this year against [the Red Wings]," Stalberg said. "For sure, that fits my style. I think that's better than me sitting back. We've got to be able to play against everybody, but if I get to play [in this series] I'm excited to play them. I think it's a good matchup for me and I think we're ready for this series. We've prepared well. We should be ready to go."

Quenneville had been using Ben Smith at the right wing spot that usually belongs to Stalberg, but Tuesday Smith was at center of the second line between Patrick Sharp and Kane. That was filling in for veteran center Michal Handzus, who missed the past two practices as maintenance days.

Handzus is expected to return for Game 1, centering the second line, which means Dave Bolland is the likely third-line center and rookie Andrew Shaw will shift out to right wing of that group. The question then would become who plays left wing on the fourth line with center Marcus Kruger and right wing Michael Frolik?

It was Daniel Carcillo at Tuesday's practice, but it could wind up being Carcillo, Brandon Bollig, Jamal Mayers, Smith or Stalberg.

Here is how the Blackhawks looked in their Tuesday practice:

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Patrick SharpBen SmithPatrick Kane

Bryan BickellDave BollandAndrew Shaw

Daniel CarcilloMarcus KrugerMichael Frolik

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Nick LeddyBrent Seabrook

Johnny OduyaMichal Rozsival / Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford

Ray Emery

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