Blackhawks

Bolland's return lifts Hawks to victory

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Bolland's return lifts Hawks to victory

Box score Highlights
VIDEO: Coach Q on Bolland's impact
Bolland: Everyone knows their role

Dave Bolland isn't too thrilled about all the injuries he's had to deal with these past few seasons.

But when the Chicago Blackhawks center comes back from whatever injury he has, he certainly makes an impact.

Bolland was at it again on Saturday night, scoring two goals in his first regular-season game as the Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 in their home opener. For Bolland, the injury issues have been frustrating. The latest was an undisclosed upper-body injury that kept him out for more than a week.

But the returns suit him just fine.

"I wouldn't mind that, take a week off and just come back and play," Bolland said with a laugh. "No, it's never fun getting injured but coming back and playing tonight was great. As a team we all played great."

Andrew Brunette scored his first goal in a Blackhawks uniform. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp also scored. Corey Crawford stopped 19 of 21 for his first victory of the season.

The Blackhawks, as a team, are better with Bolland in the lineup. Just remember back to the spring, when Bolland's return with the Blackhawks down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks sparked a comeback and forced a Game 7. Bolland was once again with his spring linemates, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik, against the Stars.

And as Bolland's group stymied the Stars' top line on Saturday, Bolland was finding his offense again. His first goal seemed like a harmless shot but it found the top left corner behind Andrew Raycroft.

"Yes, I meant to do that," Bolland joked. "I just saw (Stars defenseman Stephane) Robidas coming at me and I think two (Blackhawks) were going to the net. I just tried to get it through and to the net and was hoping for a rebound and got top corner instead."

The return of Bolland, who coach Joel Quenneville had pronounced "100 percent and ready to go" prior to this one, also gives the Blackhawks balance in their lineup again.

"Any player can feel a difference when Bolley's in," Toews said. "He's always doing a great job against the other team's top line. I think you realize how tough it is, especially when you lose a center man. (His return) just gives your team so much more depth up front. When you can play with energy and roll four lines, 5 on 5, you're going to keep your legs fresh."

The Blackhawks looked like they had more energy in front of their home crowd on Saturday. They were once again peppering a Stars goaltender (30 shots), this time Raycroft. They were quicker and pounced on opportunities more often than the night before.

"We found the back of the net a few more times but we just did some smarter things," Toews said. "We still had opportunities. We took smart shots and were chasing down rebounds. The more time you can keep the puck in your zone the more chances you're going to get."

Bolland will once again try to avoid the injuries. This one was a short one, considering his concussion and back problems of the past. The better he feels, the better the Blackhawks are.

"You wish you could go 82 games with no injury but it's a grind and it's a tough game and injuries are going to come," he said. "To battle back from the little ones and get back quick is key."

Briefly

Quenneville said Viktor Stalberg (left knee) is getting better fast. "I think we're close to getting him back out on the ice and we'll get a better indication (of his status) when he's back on the ice."

Jamal Mayers had his second tussle in a Blackhawks uniform, this time with former Blackhawks forward Jake Dowell.

Daniel Carcillo will be eligible to play in the Blackhawks' next game Thursday against Winnipeg.

Sami Lepisto and Rostislav Olesz were healthy scratches on Saturday night.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."