The Chicago Blackhawks search for a second line center started training camp with a familiar face getting another look among the team’s top six forwards.
At the team’s first practice, Dave Bolland skated between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. Is Bolland the answer on the second line?
On Saturday night, TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted that the Blackhawks would be asking for Bolland to play more of an offensive role in the team’s lineup, and the lines coach Joel Quenneville rolled out in the team’s first official practice confirmed that statement.
This would present a change of scenery for Bolland. Over the last two years, Bolland has started only 32.5 and 34.2 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, respectively; obviously skating between Kane and Sharp would change that ratio dramatically.
While Bolland’s health would have been a concern with increased ice time (he’s played in only 78 percent of the Blackhawks’ regular season games over the last four seasons), the 48-game schedule presents an opportunity for Bolland to step up.
The biggest concern with Bolland moving up to the second line is his ability to win faceoffs. Over the last five seasons, he has won only 46.5 percent of his opportunities at the dot (2,012 of 4,328) working almost exclusively as the Hawks’ third line center. However, as a third-line center, Bolland was working against the opposition’s best center a majority of the time he was on the ice.
Bolland has shown offensive flashes in the past that show he could be a good fit. While skating with the London Knights in juniors, Bolland put up 130 points (57 goals, 73 assists) in only 59 games during the 2005-06 season. Last season he tied an NHL career-best with 19 goals.
If Bolland does stick on the second line, the intrigue over the next week will be who Quenneville settles on being Bolland’s replacement as the third line center.
Oon Sunday, Andrew Shaw worked between Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg, with Marcus Kruger skating on a “fourth” line. Jamal Mayers will also be in the mix; he was good at the dot last season, winning 56.1 percent of his faceoffs.
ROSTER UPDATE: The Blackhawks recalled forwards Shaw, Kruger, Brandon Bollig, Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri and defensemen Nick Leddy and Ryan Stanton from Rockford on Sunday morning to fill out their training camp roster. Ben Smith is currently out of the IceHogs lineup with a hand injury.