Bollig happy to stick up for Blackhawks teammates

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Bollig happy to stick up for Blackhawks teammates

Brandon Bollig shook off his gloves and prepared to face St. Louis tough guy Ryan Reaves. It was the hometown kids moment in St. Louis last week, a chance for his family to see him at his pugilistic best.

Even if theres a mixed reaction to Bollig putting up his dukes.

I dont think my mom likes it too much but my dad enjoys it, said Bollig with a smile, the same one he usually displays during his fights. Theyre along for the ride and fans at this point. Its as fun for them as it is for me. Theyre happy to see me at this level.

And now that hes at this level, Bollig will do whatever it takes to stay here.

Bollig is known for his fighting prowess and he hasnt disappointed in his short stint with the Blackhawks -- he has five fights in seven games games. He added that fifth on Tuesday night, going after Reaves for his hit on Jamal Mayers in the Blackhawks 4-3 shootout victory over the Blues. Bolligs energy and drive to stick up for teammates has resonated throughout the Blackhawks locker room.

There was no hesitation. He just jumped right in the pile there and fought him. That got us pumped, said Patrick Kane. Its good to know we can play a physical game like that.

But coach Joel Quenneville said the rookie has brought so much more than just the bruiser mentality.

I thought hed be pretty excited the last time he went into St. Louis. But I like how hes playing, and Im not talking about his fighting, he said. I think that, positionally, he has awareness. He brings energy and finishes hits. Technically, hes doing the right things. Hes been a nice fit for us.

On Bolligs response on Tuesday, Quenneville said, he did what he had to do. That was a good response to a big hit.

Bollig knows his calling card and figures itll be that way most of his career. The native of St. Charles, Mo., doesnt mind the fights, although even hes surprised that hes had this many so soon. He and Reaves bout in St. Louis was a lengthy and memorable one for Bollig, who tapped Reaves on the helmet in a good-fight gesture afterward.

You have to have respect for guys who are willing to do it that much, Bollig said. Its obviously something you have to have a certain mental awareness to do, and maybe be a little messed up in the head to do it all the time. Everyone here is kind of tough in their own right.

Bollig has proven his toughness quickly in the NHL. His teammates appreciate several aspects of his game. And whatever keeps him in the big leagues, hes ready to do it.

I think at this point willing to do what I have to do to stay here; if its fighting every night, Im wiling to do that. Bollig said. I hope theres not a time when I get tired of it or not willing to do it because thatll be the time Im done with the game.

Anthony Rizzo won’t get ‘Wally Pipped’ out of Cubs leadoff spot

Anthony Rizzo won’t get ‘Wally Pipped’ out of Cubs leadoff spot

MIAMI – The day after watching his .500-ish team get shut out again, and as the growing pains continued for his young hitters, Cubs manager Joe Maddon benched the self-proclaimed greatest leadoff guy of all-time.  

“I’m hoping Jon Jay goes 5-for-5 today,” Anthony Rizzo said Saturday at Marlins Park. “Wally Pipped out of that spot.”

In the middle of a stretch where the Cubs will play 17 days in a row, Maddon figured he would give Rizzo a break against a Miami lefty (Justin Nicolino) instead of Sunday’s right-handed starter (Edinson Volquez). An added bonus: The All-Star first baseman grew up in South Florida and has a home and family here and reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant feels comfortable in the other corner infield spot.

“Get him off his feet,” Maddon said. “He’s been going after it pretty hard being the leadoff hitter. I think he’s done a wonderful job, obviously, so I don’t want to beat him up. I don’t want to beat up our bullpen. I don’t want to beat up our players right now. We still have a long way to go.

“If you ride him too hard, man, the point of diminishing returns will set in. All factors considered, I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Rizzo put up a .700 on-base percentage leading off the last 10 games, homering three times to jumpstart the offense and enjoying the smack talk with his teammates. Maddon said Rizzo will be back at the top of the order on Sunday, and the manager doesn’t have many options after the failed Kyle Schwarber experiment and Ben Zobrist’s wrist injury forced him onto the disabled list.

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Do you expect to be back in the leadoff spot?

“I play first base for the Cubs,” Rizzo said. “I don’t make the lineup card.”

Are you still the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time?

“For the week I was,” Rizzo said with a smile. “I said that after the first day.”

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”