Viktor Stalberg

Viktor Stalberg looks to become Chicago’s next big goal scorer

When Viktor Stalberg arrived on the scene in Chicago after being traded from Toronto in the Kris Versteeg deal, he showed up as a guy with high speed and high potential. The former University of Vermont forward and Hobey Baker Award finalist came out of college as a big time goal scorer with the Catamounts and showed glimpses of that in his short time with the Maple Leafs.

After a full season in Chicago that saw Stalberg score 12 goals and 12 assists in 77 games, he’s hoping that after two NHL seasons that he’s on the road to becoming a bigger threat on the ice. For the Blackhawks’ sake, they wouldn’t mind having yet another weapon to trot out on the ice.

Chris Kuc of The Chicago Tribune spoke with Stalberg to gauge his thoughts on the upcoming season and what he would like to accomplish.

“There are some spots in the top six and there are some spots in the bottom six,” said Stalberg, who along with teammates Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson helped paint the Indian head logo on the United Center ice Wednesday. “I’m going to do everything I can to take one of those (top spots). If I don’t, I know I can go back and play that more physical game too. It’s good for our team and good for my career that I can play a couple of different roles.”

Stalberg’s blistering speed and offensive skills are the types of things meant to be on a top-six line, but his ability to finish is what holds him back. Stalberg admits that a lot of his shots just didn’t find their way in last season. CSNChicago’s Tracey Myers finds out from Stalberg that when the shots don’t go in, frustrations pick up.

“Anyone who says (the tough times) don’t affect them is lying. Some part of that stretch I was on the top line and it was frustrating because you want to score when you’re there. It was tough,” he said. “But I had a pretty good finish and that gives me confidence going into this year.”

Stalberg finished last season with a 8.9% shooting percentage and getting an uptick in that percentage this season could put Stalberg in as a 20-25 goal guy. Earning the minutes to make that happen will be his challenge.

Taking time to blossom is a lesson he can talk to a teammate about and learning what it takes as Patrick Sharp was slow to bloom into becoming a big time scorer in the NHL. Sharp’s first three seasons were relatively quiet ones with the Philadelphia Flyers and his first in Chicago as well.

Once he found his way, however, he became the key running mate for the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa that we see today. Once Sharp had his first 20-goal season during his first full year in Chicago, he learned to not just pot goals but help others score as well turning him into one of Chicago’s most valuable scorers piling up 60+ points in three of the last four seasons including a career-high 71 last year.

If Stalberg can follow along that sort of path, the wealth of riches the Blackhawks will have going ahead into the future will be disturbing. One thing’s for sure, the fans in Chicago would love to see things play out that way. For Stalberg, he’ll have to keep working hard to make it happen.

Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

Babcock: Who did?

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

“I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

“He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.