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Bolland looking forward to return for Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Center Dave Bolland and goaltender Ray Emery are expected to dress for Game 1 of the Chicago Blackhawks' Western Conference Semifinal series whenever it begins next week.

After missing the entire five-game Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, each with a lower-body injury, Bolland and Emery participated without restrictions in a practice the Blackhawks held Saturday.

Chicago will face either the San Jose Sharks or the Detroit Red Wings, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will be happy to have more lineup options available regardless of the opposition, especially with Bolland.

"We love tough decisions and having [Bolland] back is something that … if it had been Game 6, he would've been playing," Quenneville said. "We'll visit with [where he fits] in the next couple of days, but we like having [Bolland] back in the lineup. It gives us a lot of options."

Emery likely will start on the bench as Corey Crawford's backup, so Bolland's presence in the forward group will make the biggest initial splash. He's played center on the second line almost exclusively this season -- a break from his previous spot as a shut-down center on the third line -- but at practice Saturday he was back on the third line.

Andrew Shaw, who has been centering that line all season and in the first-round series against the Wild, was shifted to right wing on that line, with Bryan Bickell on the left side. That left Michal Handzus centering the second line, between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.

Bolland said his mindset does tend to differ between the two roles, trying to think more offensively on the second line, but he's doing a good job of playing coy about any preferences to where he fits into the puzzle.

"It's where [Quenneville] puts [me]," Bolland said. "I'm just being sure to be ready when it comes. [Quenneville] just puts whoever together and that's just all it is. We've got a great group here and a lot of guys on this team that can bring everything."

Bolland missed 13 regular-season games with an assortment of injuries then missed the first round with a lower-body injury. He's itching to make something better of this season for himself and his team. Quenneville, asked after practice if the third-line center role will be assigned to Bolland for Game 1 of the next round, said Bolland "could start there."

That's fine by Bolland.

"I've been successful on the third line," he said. "That's sort of been my thing going on. I think this year's been an up-and-down roller coaster for [me], but that's in the past and this is now. I'm definitely concentrating on the playoffs and not about the [regular season] … but that's where I've played [before] and where I've had most of my success, so whatever happens happens."

Bolland did enjoy the scrimmage time Quenneville slotted into the workout Saturday, which gave him a chance to test himself a little bit and ramp up his intensity higher than normal in a practice setting.

Chicago will not practice Sunday then get back to work Monday after learning who they'll be playing in the conference semifinals.

"I think I'll be ready," Bolland said. "It was nice to get back in that game mode with a little scrimmage. It's been a roller-coaster ride for me this year and to get back in there is big."

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