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Bolland working hard in hopes of breakout season

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

-- Dave Bolland is getting well-acquainted with his couch this summer, but not for the usual reasons that cause people to leave body imprints on their furniture.

Bolland isn't lounging around all day, leaving a trail of empty cans and candy wrappers strewn about. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite for the Chicago Blackhawks' 25-year old center. As the lone Blackhawk to spend most of the offseason in Chicago, Bolland is spending lots of quality time with Paul Goodman, the team's strength and conditioning coordinator.

Thus, Bolland often morphs into couch potato mode following those workouts. His body won't let him do much else.

"It's always fun going in there," Bolland said of training with Goodman. "He's always got hard workouts and they're always tough. Whenever we're in there, by the time we get out I'm lying on my couch for a few hours relaxing and then waking up in the morning to go back. But I am sick of seeing him. I want to get back on the ice and go back to work now."

Indeed, it's been a long offseason for the Hawks, who bowed out of the 2011 playoffs in the first round after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010.

It's been especially long for Bolland, whose severe concussion on March 9 caused him to miss nearly a month, including the stretch run of the regular season and first three games of the Hawks' playoff series against the rival Vancouver Canucks.

Bolland's return in Game 4 sparked an impressive comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7 – which the Hawks lost in overtime on a goal by the Canucks' Alexandre Burrows. It was just enough of a taste to keep Bolland hungry all summer for the upcoming season, which will start with training camp in about three weeks.

"That was probably the worst sports injury I've ever had, because some guys say it's a week or two weeks (out) … and the next thing you know I'm out for a month or a month-and-a-half and we're in the playoffs," Bolland said before playing in the recent Blackhawks Alumni Golf Outing at Medinah Country Club. "It was something that really dragged on. For me, going into the season it is motivation after coming out of the Vancouver series and losing. I got a strong series with them and coming into this season will be great."

Bolland, who scored 15 goals and 37 points in 61 games, is eager to prove he's durable enough to hold up over a full season. Each of the past two were marred by significant injuries – the concussion last season and back surgery that kept him out for half of the regular season in 2009-10.

He's trying not to think much about either one, but the concussion is hard to forget. It happened after he was elbowed in the head by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina, causing him about a month of sitting in darkened rooms, lying in bed and dealing with severe headaches, among other things.

The fact he'll even be ready for camp physically is something Bolland doesn't take for granted. He knows it could've been worse, because there are still reminders all around the League.

Forward David Perron hasn't played for the St. Louis Blues since last Nov. 4 and is expected to miss training camp with concussion symptoms, while the Pittsburgh Penguins are hopeful star center Sidney Crosby will be ready for their camp after a concussion on Jan. 5 last season kept him out for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

Dave's very valuable to our team... he's so crucial to allowing other players to do what they do best. It's really hard to find a guy that's willing to embrace that role. All you have to do is look at the playoffs and see the kind of impact that he made in a short period of time. - VP/GM Stan Bowman

"It does get scary," Bolland said. "You want everybody playing. You want your top guys playing. It is scary how long some of these things can take. I remember sitting there with mine, and you just never knew when it was going to come out. I remember having dinner with friends and it's like talking to the wall, basically."

These days, he's doing more talking to Goodman than anything else while preparing for what the Hawks hope is a breakout season. Bolland has appeared in six seasons for the Hawks, but this will be just his fourth full NHL campaign. He's also lasted more than 80 games just once in the NHL -- scoring 19 goals and finishing with 47 points and a plus-19 rating in 81 games in 2008-09.

After he played a big role in both of the previous two playoffs, however, the Hawks would love to see what Bolland can do over a full slate of games -- with Cup-winning experience to go along with a diverse toolset of skills. Bolland might "only" center the Hawks' third line, but his absences from the lineup have proven it's not a job that just anybody can fill.

In so many ways, the agitating-yet-skilled Bolland is a perfect fit for that role and this team – which has an overload of talent among the top six forwards and depends on Bolland's line to grind down the opposing stars by hounding them in almost every shift.

"Dave's very valuable to our team and we've talked about it a lot internally, in the past, how he's so crucial to allowing other players to do what they do best," Blackhawks Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman said. "It's really hard to find a guy that's willing to embrace that role. He has had some injury difficulties over the last couple years, but all you have to do is look at the playoffs and see the kind of impact that he made in a short period of time. Having him starting off healthy and ready for a big year is going to be fun."

Getting to that point, however, hasn't been quite as thrilling – at least not for Bolland.

"I think I've been in the gym too long," he quipped before teeing it up for charity. "Right now it's just me and (Goodman). A few guys have come back for a couple of weeks to work out, but most of the time it's just me and Paulie going 1-on-1, so it's even worse. I'm always just banging it out all the time. It's been a long summer, but (camp's) coming up quick. We're all getting ready for it."

That includes his couch, which could probably use some time off.

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