Bolland, Smith out Friday; Hawks recall Pirri

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Bolland, Smith out Friday; Hawks recall Pirri

READ: Kane embracing new roleREAD: Bolland, Smith questionable for openerWATCH: Mikita discusses new book on CTL

The Chicago Blackhawks will start their season without Dave Bolland, but there's hope the center will return for Saturday night's home opener.

Bolland practiced for the first time in over a week on Thursday, as he was sidelined with an upper body injury. Bolland, who will not play in Dallas on Friday night, said this injury was not related to his concussion and back problems of the past. Nevertheless it's one more injury for Bolland, who has struggled with them plenty already.

"You always wish you could stay healthy but little things can come out of nowhere," he said. "You're working hard out there and you wish you could get through a whole career with no injury. But some guys it happens to and some guys it doesn't. It's just the way things happen."

Forward Ben Smith did not practice at all on Thursday and is also out for Friday. Smith is still coming back from a concussion he sustained last week against the Detroit Red Wings and has not been cleared for contact. Asked if Smith not practicing was a setback, coach Joel Quenneville said, "it's part of the process."

Quenneville said it's possible the Blackhawks dress seven defensemen Friday.

Meanwhile, Brandon Pirri was recalled from Rockford and will play Friday. Pirri was centering Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik at Thursday's practice and Quenneville said he could play some with them in the season opener. Pirri wants to make the most of the opportunity.

"If I'm lucky enough to play a couple years in this league, it'll be the same feeling every game. This is just a childhood dream to play in the NHL," said Pirri, who had five points in the preseason. "I wanted to feel confident playing; that's when I play my best."

Montador adjusting

Defenseman Steve Montador said it's been an adjustment to the Blackhawks this preseason. But he said he's felt better about his game as camp's continued.

"It's been an adjustment but I'm as comfortable as I've ever been being here. I know when I'm in the right place," said Montador, who was paired with John Scott in Thursday's practice. "There's a lot of adjustment but I'm in a good place now."

Montador, who signed a four-year deal with the Blackhawks this offseason, didn't talk of specific adjustments. He's getting used to a new system and teammates, which could always be part of it. Coach Joel Quenneville said Montador had a "so-so camp" but improved as it went along -- "once he gets more acclimated and comfortable his game will get to where it needs to be," Quenneville said.

Montador said the same.

"I wouldn't say i was overall happy with it all, but that's a benefit that the games don't count. They're gone and now it's the regular season," he said. "It just takes time on some things, and time is taking time."

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

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Keep it simple.

There is no team in the league that scores fewer goals per game (2.00) and allows more goals per game (3.32) than the Avalanche, who are 4-18-1 in their last 23 games, including 1-7-0 in their past eight. The Blackhawks need to keep it simple, get bodies in front of the net and take advantage on special teams against a team that ranks in the bottom-seven in both the power play and penalty kill.

2. Will Jonathan Toews' success against Colorado continue?

It's been a tough year for the Blackhawks captain, who has only seven goals and 21 points in 37 games, including three points in his last seven. Earlier this season he went 13 consecutive games without a goal, and snapped that on Dec. 23 against Colorado in a 2-1 overtime loss. He recorded a season-high seven shots on goal in that game, and has scored a goal in each of his last four contests against the Avalanche. They seem to be his slumpbuster, so perhaps he'll come through again.

3. Marian Hossa's impact.

In the first meeting of the season, Hossa scored two goals in a 4-0 win over Colorado. In the second, the Blackhawks were without him after he was sidelined with an upper-body injury, and fell 2-1 in overtime. The Blackhawks are nearly at full strength this time around, with Marcus Kruger the lone injured player who's recovering from an apparent hand injury.

4. Nathan MacKinnon.

After a solid showing at the World Cup of Hockey last fall, MacKinnon was considered a strong candidate to have a breakout season with a new head coach that preaches an up-tempo style of play, right up MacKinnon's ally. But he hasn't reached that level yet, with 28 points in 41 games. Not bad, but not great by his standards as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. He scored the overtime winner and added an assist in last month's victory against Chicago at the United Center.

5. Short shifts.

This will be the third meeting of the year between the two teams, but the first one in Colorado. Due to the high altitude in the Mile-High City, expect Joel Quenneville to distribute the minutes more evenly throughout their four lines and intstruct the Blackhawks to be short with their shifts, no longer than 40 seconds.

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Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Patrick Kane was summing up the Blackhawks' weekend, one that didn't go well in terms of points.

"Good way to kind of judge ourselves, where we're at," he said Sunday night. "Might be a little bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are."

Well, in a way, it is. You can't really compare Friday's loss to Washington and Sunday's loss to Minnesota on performance; the Blackhawks didn't show up for the first game and were much better in the second. Nevertheless, it was the same result in each. The Blackhawks' lengthy hold on first place in the Western Conference ended, with the Wild taking over following Sunday's 3-2 victory.

It's not a sound-the-alarm situation, but the Blackhawks are certainly cognizant of the missed opportunity last weekend and that they came up short against the league's best.

Artem Anisimov agreed with Kane's assessment.

"We just need to play better. All four lines need to play better in all areas of the ice. Just be better in the little things," Anisimov said. "Back check, put stick in the right position, box the guy out, short shifts. All little things need to be better."

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Many of the little things that were absent against the Capitals were back against the Wild. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with mistakes made on goals allowed, especially the first two. And while Kane and the second line were a consistent scoring threat against the Wild, the other three lines weren't. It's a problem that's plagued the Blackhawks a good deal this season, even when they were stringing together victories.

There is no reason to think that, because of this weekend's results, the Blackhawks are going to falter against strong teams. They've done well against others already this season. They beat Montreal earlier this season, when the Canadiens were healthy and steamrolling everyone. They beat the New York Rangers when the Rangers and former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta were on their respective hot streaks.

Still, Kane's analysis is correct: This should get the Blackhawks' attention. The Wild have beaten the Blackhawks in eight consecutive regular-season games now and will face them three more times this season. They have two more meetings with the Edmonton Oilers, who beat them soundly in November.

The Blackhawks' long reign atop the Western Conference standings is over. They’re currently second in the Central Division, with an eight-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done fairly well this season. But this weekend was a reminder that they can be better.

"The game (on Friday) was kind of like a shock to the system thinking maybe you're one of the top teams in the league, or being able to compete with one of the top teams, and we obviously got thoroughly outplayed. We came back (Sunday night). It was pretty even in chances. We might've even had more so, just kind of didn't pull it out," Kane said. "But (when) you've played two of the better teams in the league and lose, there's got to be room for improvement, right?"