Chicago Blackhawks

Stalberg tight-lipped on trip to doghouse

CHICAGO – A red practice sweater would have been fine. Black, too.

But Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg did not want to talk about wearing the dreaded white sweater for the third consecutive practice Tuesday. Those who wear white sweaters typically do not play the next game, and Stalberg has practiced for the past few days with the spare-part “fifth line” alongside Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig.

“I don’t really have anything to say about it,” Stalberg said. “That’s Q’s call.”

Q stands for Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, but it also could stand for question mark. As in, are the Hawks really better off with Stalberg watching Game 1 in a suit?

Stalberg struggled in the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild, scoring no goals and having one assist in five games. But he had 23 points (9 G, 14 A) in 47 regular-season games, and his speed could make a difference against Detroit.

Quenneville was asked what Stalberg needed to do to return to the lineup.

“Stay ready, stay ready,” Quenneville said. “Nobody said he’s out of the lineup. But keep yourself [ready]. Make decisions tough on us.”

Meanwhile, Stalberg seemed to allude to his individual play as he discussed the Hawks’ performance in the first round of the playoffs.

“At times in the series, we may not have been as good as we wanted to be, but we still came out [on top], 4-1,” Stalberg said. “We did what we were supposed to do. It certainly could’ve been better at times, but that’s just how it goes.”

Line dancing: If Stalberg does not play in Game 1, the Hawks’ top four lines likely will be the following entering tonight’s series opener:

Jonathan Toews will center the top line with Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa on the wings. Michal Handzus will serve as the second-line center between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.

On the third line, Dave Bolland will play center with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on the wings. Marcus Kruger will anchor the fourth line in between Daniel Carcillo and Michael Frolik.

Hawks bits: Ben Smith practiced with the second line Tuesday in Handzus’ place, but Quenneville said he expected Handzus to play in Game 1. … One practice drill featured some feistiness as Mayers and Carcillo slashed and swore at each other, but the veterans made peace a few minutes later and skated away grinning.

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