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Blackhawks get day of rest after OT win

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO – A day after opening the Stanley Cup Playoffs by winning an overtime game against the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks stayed off the ice.

The Blackhawks did not practice at United Center, which will be the site of Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series, which got off to a nail-biting start Tuesday night with Chicago’s 2-1 win in OT.

That meant goalie Ray Emery and center Dave Bolland, who each missed the series opener with a lower-body injury, had another day off to rest and recover. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville met with reporters Wednesday and gave a brief update on the injured duo, whose availability for Game 2 on Friday is up in the air.

"I don’t know about Game 2, but hopefully they’ll be skating [Thursday]," Quenneville said. “We’re hopeful on that, but I don’t want to comment too much on Friday right now with them.”

Bolland is out with a groin strain he sustained in Vancouver during the last week of the regular season, and Emery is recovering from an unspecified injury that kept him out for three late-season games before he tried to make a comeback April 24 against the Edmonton Oilers.

Emery, who went 17-1-0 in 21 games with a 1.94 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, started in Edmonton but left after playing 14 minutes. Considering Corey Crawford’s strong play in Tuesday’s game, it’s likely Quenneville will stick with him even after Emery is cleared to return.

Bolland is a different story.

After playing most of the season in the middle of the second line, between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, Bolland might not have that role handed back to him even when he’s healthy enough to play. Veteran Michal Handzus, who was acquired from the San Jose Shark two days before the NHL Trade Deadline, has filled in admirably centering that line and might keep the role as the playoffs progress.

The question then becomes, where does Bolland fit?

The 26-year-old center has played 49 career NHL playoff games and logged a stat line of 14 goals and 37 points with a plus-11 rating. He also played a key role as center of the Blackhawks’ third line during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup championship.

If Quenneville puts Bolland back at his more familiar postseason role of “super pest” on that third line, rookie Andrew Shaw would get moved somewhere else, likely to the fourth line. Doing that could disturb the chemistry Bryan Bickell, Shaw and Viktor Stalberg have forged playing together for most of the season. The line accounted for Bickell's overtime winner in Game 1 against Minnesota.

“A lot of times those decisions are made for you on a need basis or the player’s health, how he’s playing,” Quenneville said when asked about Bolland. “We make adjustments or alterations to his contribution and how on his game he is. Bolly’s always been useful. [In the] playoffs, he always seems to jump up to the challenge and we’ll see when he gets back where he’ll be utilized.”

Quenneville also was asked about potential new health issues stemming from Game 1 but didn’t relay specifics.

“We’ll be on the ice [Thursday] and we should be fine,” he said.

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