Stalberg steps up on first line

Has Patrick Sharp ever heard of Wally Pip?

He’s the first baseman who sat out a game in June of 1925 allowing Lou Gehrig to take over for the New York Yankees. Gehrig played the next 2,130 games and Pip was never heard from again.

No one is suggesting that will be Sharp’s fate but Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Viktor Stalberg didn’t disappoint in his first full game filling in for the injured leading scorer of the team.

“He gave us some speed,” Joel Quenneville said. “I thought all three of them did things that made it productive.”

Playing with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is a curse and a blessing. If things are going well, points will come. If not, you’ll hear about it.

“Earlier in the year I didn’t know both the guys as well as I do now,” Stalberg said after the Hawks 4-0 win over Florida. “That’s a big factor. I feel more comfortable, maybe not as nervous when I’m out there. If they would tell me something at the beginning of the year I would probably get down on myself. Now I know that’s how they are. I found ways not to care if they get down on me for a shift or two. They’re good guys and great hockey players.”

Stalberg fit right in scoring early in the third period on a nice passing play between the three forwards. Earlier, his speed earned the Hawks an opening shift power play as he went to the net hard and paid the price.

He may not last 2,130 games -- or the hockey equivalent -- on the top line, but for one night Stalberg showed he belongs there, even if he’s just as a temporary replacement for Sharp.

Kruger debut: Marcus Kruger had a quiet debut. He did little wrong but didn’t have the puck on his stick very much. Still, it was a nice beginning.

“He was alright,” Quenneville said. “He’ll be more comfortable with how we play but I think he’s aware positionally and his instincts are high end. Putting it all together, it was a good start for him.”

Kruger played 11:37 and got better as the game went along. He registered one shot on goal coming in the third period and won two of five faceoffs.


Corey Crawford earned his fourth shutout of the season stopping 23 shots.

• With two assists Jonathan Toews set a career high with 44 in a season.

• The Hawks won their season high sixth in a row at home.