When the Blackhawks hit the ice for the first time as a team on Sunday, one of the few surprises in the team’s practice lines had center Dave Bolland – normally a stalwart of the checking line – lining up between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp as the second-line pivot.
“Playing with Kaner and Sharpie is always a privilege. It’s a big role to embrace, but I’m ready for it,” said Bolland. “My offense has always been there, but I’ve always been taught that defense is the game and you have to take care of that. I think it will be a little different mindset, but it will be good.”
Though the opening night lineup is far from set, No. 36 has long had the respect of his teammates and Blackhawks management, who have confidence they can go into the season with Bolland in a top-six forward slot.
“I’ve had some success playing with him in the past,” Kane said. “He’s a great center – he can move the puck, and he does a lot of things that you want a centerman to do. That’s overlooked – he’s got a great shot, great hands, he’s a great passer. Hopefully he can show it out there a little bit more.”
“We’ve slotted Dave in at that third-line role for a long time… now is the time to give him an expanded role on our team. The timing is now to see if it fits,” said VP/GM Stan Bowman. “He’s got a lot of skills, and he’s scored a lot of big goals for us. He’s got the ability to do things offensively… He’s really earned the opportunity to see what he can do. Dave’s well-suited to give it a chance.”
It’s been a long road back for Marian Hossa, whose season ended in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs following a nasty hit from the Coyotes’ Raffi Torres. But after watching him back in action Sunday, Head Coach Joel Quenneville and his staff are already singing the 34-year-old winger’s praises.
“He’s probably in the best shape of his life,” said Quenneville.
Though Marian Hossa received a clean bill of health from Blackhawks physicians, defenseman Steve Montador will not start out training camp with his team.
“Steve is the one player who didn’t pass his training camp physical, so he’s not ready to play,” Bowman said.”
Also out is forward Rostislav Olesz, who sustained an injury in Rockford at the end of the season and had offseason surgery.