Blackhawks

Bolland given opportunity on Hawks' second-line

981667.png

Bolland given opportunity on Hawks' second-line

Weve all gotten used to seeing Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland in a certain role: center of the third line, leader of the checkers, aggravator of the Sedins.

But on Sunday, the Blackhawks first day of training camp, Bolland was taking a different role: second-line center, between two scoring snipers. And while line changes are always possible with the Blackhawks, for now its Bollands opportunity to move up one.

Bolland skated between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane on the Blackhawks No. 2 line, as team staff is ready to see him spread his scoring wings. Bolland has proven himself as the checking-line center; hes good at it, and good at getting in opposing top line players heads. But theres always been that other side of Bolland, the guy who can get on some scoring streaks, and the Blackhawks are hoping to see that more with this move.

Everybody kind of puts him as a third-line center, in that checking role, and a lot of times that line can be our best line. So having some offensive guys surrounding (Bolland), we think thered be nice production with the three of them plus theres some defensive responsibility, coach Joel Quenneville said. I like the balance that line shows.

General manager Stan Bowman agreed.

Weve talked about giving him an expanded role on our team for some time, and the time is now, Bowman said. On some of our playoff runs, he has ability to do things offensively. In that role, its probably more important that a player has the awareness to play in his own end. We have some high-end offensive players on wings. He doesnt have to surpass them; just play the defensive role on that line and be able to read off them, which Dave can do.

Bolland, who has played that role briefly a few times, is ready for the opportunity.

Playing with Kaner and Sharpie is always a privilege. Its a big role to embrace and I think Im ready for it, said Bolland. For sure, the offense is there. But Ive always been taught that defense is the game and you have to take care of that. Itll be a different mindset, going against different lines out there. But itll be good.

Bolland tallied 19 goals last season, tying a career high set in 2008-09. For Kane, the potential for Bolland to help linemates, and score more himself, is there.

Ive had some success playing with Bolland, and I know other players have in the past, Kane said. Hes a great center. He does a lot of things you want a center to do, moving the puck up ice and doing other things wingers arent supposed to. (His offense) is overlooked. He has all the talent in the world. Hes got a great shot, great hands. And hopefully he can show that.

Sharp said Bollands defensive skills are an added bonus for the line.

Bolleys a great player and weve had success in the past, he said. Theres a lot of talk with him playing with Kaner and myself, but hes still going to play his game. Hes still going to be tough to play against.

Bollands defense will remain. The Blackhawks dont want him to lose that. They just see his scoring potential, and they want to see it more.

Bolland, offensively, has skill. You can argue on any team of the league he could be the second-line center. But we dont expect him to be just in that (checking) role. I think theres more there.

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

edzo_slide.png

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

ST. LOUIS – Eddie Olczyk’s morning at Scottrade Center was full of hugs and handshakes, of questions and encouraging words, of smiles and even some tears.

It was a busy morning but a good one for Olczyk, who Wednesday night will do his first hockey broadcast since being diagnosed with colon cancer in August. For the first time in a while, Olczyk felt like himself.

“It feels normal. It feels comfortable,” said Olczyk, who will be alongside Doc Emrick when the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues. “I just feel invigorated. Seeing a lot of familiar faces, guys busting chops and a lot of well wishes.”

Olczyk went through his usual game-day routine, including quick chats with Blackhawks players following skate. On Wednesday those talks were that much more special, for both sides.

“Great to see him,” said Ryan Hartman. “When I first saw I was pretty excited to see him back. It’s definitely a presence you know when you’re watching games, that voice you heard growing up. He looks good, looks healthy. He’s in a battle but he looks really good.”

Olczyk will also be in the booth on Thursday night when the Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers. Past that, he’ll play it by ear. He’s talked to NBC and Blackhawks president John McDonough, who Olczyk said gave him an “open canvas” in terms of scheduling. If Olczyk feels good on Saturday and the Blackhawks play on Sunday, he’ll try to get back in the booth.

“We think about him every day and we’ve had the pleasure of having him come by a couple of times. Having him be here today for a road game is great to know,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But he has a tough battle ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to fight it. We support him every single day.”

Olczyk started chemotherapy treatments in September and he has his good and bad days. Those will continue for a while. So will his fight to completely beat this. But for at least the next two nights Olczyk gets to return to a normal routine, and that’s the perfect panacea for a trying time.

“I’m overwhelmed with everybody,” Olczyk said. “But this is the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

bouma.jpg
USA TODAY

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."