By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Blackhawks center Dave Bolland will not make his return from a groin injury Thursday night in Game 5 against the Minnesota Wild, but when he does, he could be playing a different role.
Head coach Joel Quenneville ruled both Bolland and goaltender Ray Emery out for tonight’s game, but said they are “real close” to a return.
While Bolland has been out, Michal Handzus has filled in as the second-line center and has been a good fit along side Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. Together, the three players are a plus-12 in this playoff series against the Wild, which the Blackhawks lead 3-1.
After Thursday’s morning skate, Quenneville said Handzus has been “a nice find” in the second-line center role and admitted that Bolland “working his way up” is a possibility when he returns.
But Bolland may not want to work his way up past the third-line center role, as he has always been more comfortable there.
Asked about his health status Thursday, Bolland delivered a gem of a response: “I don’t know about a percentage, but I’m halfway there.”
Bolland, who skated again Thursday, said he’ll be ready for the second round, but it doesn’t appear the Blackhawks are holding him out for the second round at this point.
“If he was healthy, he’d be playing,” Quenneville said.
Bolland’s return, especially in a third-line role, would be a huge boost for the Blackhawks who have managed to win three games without him. Two years ago, the Hawks fell behind 0-3 to the Vancouver Canucks without Bolland, but managed to come back and force a Game 7 when he came back.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks may have found a hidden gem with Handzus. The veteran center has plenty of experience on the second-line, but Quenneville has admitted that they were not envisioning him fitting in that role when they traded for him last month.
For a team that has been searching for a reliable second-line center for three seasons now, that may end up being the trade of the year.
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