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Stalberg bringing an “expect to win” mentality to Predators lineup


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Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua

Over the course of his tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks, new Predators forward Viktor Stalberg has seen the ups and downs of a team stripped apart and set into a rebuilding mode after a Stanley Cup win.

Experiencing two crushing Western Conference Quarterfinal exits in his first two seasons with the Hawks, one at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks and the other to the Phoenix Coyotes, to winning the President’s Trophy and lifting the Stanley Cup a little over two weeks ago, Stalberg’s experienced what it takes to make it that far.

“Being on a winning team, you set the standard for certain things. My three years they were kind of rebuilding from the last cup, so I was part of the good and bad times in Chicago I guess, but those guys never doubted. They were really expecting to win every game,” said Predators forward Viktor Stalberg, who turned in 23 points for the Blackhawks during the regular season. “That’s something you bring to Nashville I think, expecting to win all the time is something I’m going to try to bring there.”

However winning comes at a price. Stalberg is leaving a Chicago team who has reigned atop the league twice in the last four years, once with him on the squad. Yet, playing with a team packed full of superstars can find a player like Stalberg sitting a little outside the mix.

“I don’t think they gave me the opportunity to be comfortable [in Chicago], especially the last two years. Looking back two seasons ago, I scored 22 goals and still wasn’t playing Top 6 minutes or any powerplay [time]. I don’t think that’s really giving an opportunity,” said Stalberg. “Certainly you can’t be mad at that either. Look at that lineup, that’s just the way it is. Past couple of years, that’s the best team in hockey if you look at the roster. If you want to be on a good team with winning and all that, it might not be the opportunity to reach my potential.”

In his potential is where a bit of a risk factor comes in for Nashville. Stalberg’s averaged just a few ticks over 14 minutes of action a game last season, placing him in between Jonathon Blum and Craig Smith on Nashville’s 2012-2013 roster in average time on ice.

While it’s hard to earn ice time fighting for top line spots against players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa for starters, Stalberg feels like he’s ready for the task with the Predators.

“Obviously you gotta get a chance to play those minutes to see what you can turn your career into. Looking at the past two years, I’ve played about 14 minutes [a game]. Maybe half of the year I was in the Top 6 for Chicago, scoring 22 goals but none of them on the powerplay,” said Stalberg. “I certainly think the potential is there and I know I’m going to have the chance to play with some pretty talented offensive players in Nashville. I’m looking forward to the chance there and hoping I can bring that offense to the team”

The 27 year old Gothenberg, Sweden native is one of two moves (along with former Minnesota Wild center Matt Cullen) that General Manager David Poile feels can quench Nashville’s offensive drought.

Slotting in at right wing, Stalberg has shown he has the wheels to blow past the competition and finish some spectacular plays. With that speed and the style of game the Predators utilize, it could add a new dynamic to Stalberg’s game.

“[The Predators] play an up-tempo game. It fits well with my game with speed. They really come at you and make it hard for you to break out of your zone. That’s something I’m looking to really use, to use my speed and create turnovers,” said Stalberg.

But it all boils down to his experiences and that “expect to win” mentality he experienced first hand in Chicago. If lifting the Stanley Cup a couple of weeks ago taught him anything, it was that winning can change everything.

“Being around and to see what the [Stanley Cup] does to people, how exciting it is, I hope I can get a chance to experience that in Nashville as well,” said Stalberg.