NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Viktor Stalberg has come off the injured reserved list and will make his season debut tonight versus the New York Islanders.
“Yes, I’m in tonight,” Stalberg said after morning skate. “I wouldn’t be in if I wasn’t 100 percent sure [my shoulder] wasn’t 100 percent functional.”
The 27-year-old right wing credits Nashville’s training staff for helping him recover so quickly. After hurting his shoulder in a preseason contest against Tampa, the Preds believed he would miss three to four weeks worth of action.
It turns out he would miss just 18 days.
“I’ve been skating for a while here, so I’m in good shape,” he said. “I didn’t play much in the preseason … Obviously it’s going to take a little time to get used to everything, but I have to go out there and play simple, play to my strengths. I’m excited to go.”
The return of Stalberg, who signed a four-year, $12 million contract this summer, may be just what this team needs to get the offense going. The 2013 Stanley Cup champion is known for his ability to put pucks on net, and with Nashville averaging just 25.9 S/G at the moment, adding someone like Stalberg to the lineup can make a big difference.
“We need to start shooting more, and getting to the net more, and Viktor is going to help us with that a lot,” said Filip Forsberg. “He’s very fast and gets to the goal, and we need to be doing that as a team.”
Coach Trotz said Stalberg will likely shift around the depth chart against New York and play on a couple different lines throughout the night. Him and Forsberg skated together a good bit during morning skate, though it’s unclear how much ice time they’ll get together.
“Playing with Viktor would be great,” said Forsberg. “We got to play together this morning and I really enjoyed it. He’s usually first on pucks when you dump it in, so that can help me create more scoring chances.”
While Stalberg will make his return to the lineup sooner than the team initially expected, it’s difficult to tell at this time how well he’ll be able to perform in his first few games back. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t play much tonight if it turns out he needs time to re-adjust.
He also said there’s a chance his shoulder could start feeling sore if he gets knocked around a bit, in which case he would like to take things easy.
“I really don’t know what to expect [of Stalberg],” Trotz said. “Some guys come back great, and then they fall off, some guys take a while to get back. I really don’t know what to expect. But I know what we got Viktor for — he has tremendous speed, one of the fastest guys in the league, very similar to [Islanders forward Michael] Grabner.
“He’ll stretch the zone a bit for us; keep the defense honest a bit more. He’s going to win those races to pucks. His speed will create a little more space hopefully for a second wave of attack. Those type of things Vitkor can obviously do with his legs, and hopefully with his hands he can score some goals for us.”