Blackhawks turn to Bolland as No. 2 center

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks search for a reliable No. 2 center continued Sunday where it left off last season.

Coach Joel Quenneville is hopeful this time around the Blackhawks can find their man quickly rather than enduring another endless search like a season ago.

On Sunday in the Blackhawks' first practice of the 2013 season, Quenneville unveiled Dave Bolland as his newest attempt to solve the No. 2 center problem. Bolland participated in drills alongside wings Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp at Johnny's IceHouse West.

The 26-year-old Bolland has built his reputation as a defense-minded and checking-line center since he became a staple in the Blackhawks' roster in 2007. But Quenneville says he believes Bolland can work as the No. 2 center because Bolland possesses some offensive game, has plenty of defensive game and he'll be flanked by two very gifted scorers.

"Having some offensive guys surrounded with him, we think offensively there would be some nice production between the three of them," Quenneville said. "At the same time, there's responsibility defensively. I like the balance that line shows and the upside offensively that they all bring. But Bolly offensively has some skill, and you could argue every team in the league, Bolly could be their second-line center."

Bolland's placement at No. 2 center is a decision also backed by Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman. Bowman said Bolland has earned that chance.

"I think in some ways we've slotted Dave in that third role for some time," Bowman said. "Each player in our team has growth for their game. In order to demonstrate that, you have to give them the opportunity.

"The timing is now to see if that fits. We certainly know he can play in that (checking-line) role he's been playing in for a number of years. But his pedigree prior to coming to the Blackhawks as a third-line center, he was an offensive player really throughout."

Bolland put up some impressive offensive numbers early in his career. In the 2005-2006 season in the OHL, he registered 130 points. It was with his arrival to the Blackhawks he began to concentrate more on the defensive side.

"He's got the ability to do things offensively," Bowman said. "Probably more important than anything is a player who has the awareness to be able to play in his own end because you have some pretty high-end offensive players on your wings, so you don't necessarily have to surpass them. You just have to in some ways play the defensive role on that line and also be able to read off them, which Dave can do. I think he's really set up and well deserving the opportunity to see what he can do."

That's all Bolland seeks is an opportunity, too.

"I embrace my role," Bolland said. "Whatever is thrown at me, I take it. If this is what it is now, I'll take it. It's a big role, but I think I'm ready to embrace it.

"I still can't forget about my defense there. I will have to get back and be sure to help out. It's going to be that offensive role that's going to help me out."

Sharp was optimistic Bolland could put an end to the No. 2 center debate. Sharp said he believed if Bolland stuck to his strengths they could flourish as a line.

"Bolly's a great player," Sharp said. "I've played with him before. We've had success in the past. I know there's been a lot of talk with him playing with Kaner and myself and coming out of that checking role. He's going to play his game and still be tough play against, still win faceoffs, play well defensively, and we'll see how things play out."