Chicago Blackhawks' Viktor Stalberg (25) celebrates with teammates after scoring his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Chicago, Friday, March 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
It appears as though Viktor Stalberg will take his place in the Chicago Blackhawks lineup once again as the team heads to Detroit for Game 3 of their series with the Red Wings.
Stalberg, who missed the past two games as a healthy scratch after allegedly questioning his role on the team’s power play, skated with his traditional third line mates, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw, on Sunday morning.
That wasn’t the only lineup juggling done by head coach Joel Quenneville. He also shifted Dave Bolland back up to the second line with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, and kept Daniel Carcillo and Michael Frolik on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger at center.
Both center Michal Handzus and defenseman Johnny Oduya missed practice, but Quenneville said they will be in the lineup Monday.
The question, then, as we head into Monday’s game is whether or not the changes Quenneville seems prepared to make are what the team needs. Most fans will be ecstatic at the notion of Stalberg returning to the lineup, and if Handzus is indeed playing, then it would seemingly mean that Carcillo would be the odd man out of the lineup.
If that is indeed the case, here is a lineup suggestion for Quenneville:
The Red Wings were able to push the pace hard against the Blackhawks on Saturday, and the re-insertion of Stalberg into the lineup is a move designed to guard against that from happening again. With the forward undoubtedly looking to prove his critics wrong, he is going to probably come out on Monday as if shot from a cannon, and Quenneville could simultaneously use that to open up space on the ice for Sharp and Kane, the latter of whom has struggled to get enough space to work at times in these playoffs.
If Quenneville decides that a reunited second and fourth line strategy is the way that he should go, then it could still be argued that it’s the right call. Bolland hasn’t looked spectacular by any stretch since his return to the lineup for this series, but Handzus is clearly slowed by an injury of some sort, and so putting him in a position where he needs to play top-six minutes seems silly against a team that is trying to possess the puck in the same style that the Hawks do.
Putting Handzus on the fourth line at the center slot also makes sense because it removes Kruger, a face-off liability, from those duties. It will also allow Kruger to remain fresh for penalty killing purposes, and that ultimately is his biggest asset to this team.
Making these kinds of lineup changes are far from a sure thing, but after Saturday’s effort, the Hawks need to retool slightly as they look to regain control of the series in the Motor City.