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

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Corey Crawford will start but Marcus Kruger won't play yet when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

Scott Darling is coming off a 30-stop shutout in the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over Boston on Friday night. Coach Joel Quenneville said there was some consideration given to start Darling in this one, too, but, "at the same time we want Crow playing as much as he can to get back to the great pace he had prior to being away."

"He hasn't been bad. But certainly that's what we're looking for him to get back to," Quenneville said on Crawford. "I like giving Darls some consideration. We'll see but [Darling] certainly enhanced his positioning."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger skated with the Blackhawks for the first time since hurting his hand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 30. He took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice but was not among the line rushes. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is for either Tuesday or Thursday but, "knowing we have that [All-Star] break, we'll see how he feels and what our options are."

Kruger said he felt, "pretty close."

"I tried to take it day by day and prepare to play," Kruger said. "Obviously not tonight, but the next game we will see." 

BLACKHAWKS VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
6:30 p.m.
TV: WGN
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks
Forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Marcus Kruger (right arm).

Vancouver Canucks (via Canucks)
Forward lines

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Alex Burrows
Markus Granlund-Brandon Sutter-Jayson Megna
Brendan Gaunce-Michael Chaput-Jack Skille

Defensive Pairs
Alex Edler-Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa-Chris Tanev
Alex Biega-Nikita Tryamkin

Goaltender
Ryan Miller

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Anton Rodin (knee), Ben Hutton (hand), Jannik Hansen (knee), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Philip Larsen (upper body), Derek Dorsett (back).