Dave Bolland will be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. So the question no longer is when, but where?
While Bolland has been out with a groin injury since April 22, Michal Handzus has taken Bolland's second-line center role and ran with it. Bolland could be headed back to his old role on the third line, even if it means breaking up the successful grouping of Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg.
"We love tough decisions," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'll visit with that over the next couple of days. But we look forward to having him in the lineup and looking at other options."
Bolland said it's not up to him where he plays. But after an up-and-down season between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, he sounded like a guy who's more comfortable in that irritant-agitator checking-line role he played so well in recent seasons.
"I've been successful on the third line," he said. "That's sort of been my thing. This year's been an up-and-down roller coaster for myself. But I think that's in the past and this is now, so I have to concentrate on the playoffs. That's where I've played and that's where I've had most of my success."
Sending a message
Both Brandon Saad and Viktor Stalberg were out of the top four-line rotation for Saturday's practice, wearing the dreaded white jerseys. Stalberg skated on the "fifth line" with Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig, while Saad skated with defensemen Ryan Stanton and Sheldon Brookbank.
Saad had just one point in the first round, and Quenneville said after the practice that he wanted him to "keep it simple." Saad said he got the message.
"Even without him saying anything, I know my play wasn't at my best," he said. "I've got to get better each game, each round. ... I'm motivated, for sure. Not playing your best is something you use as motivation, really."
Backup goaltender Ray Emery also will be back in Game 1, which will be at the United Center on either Tuesday or Wednesday. He hasn't dressed since aggravating a lower-body injury in Edmonton on April 24.
"I'm just happy to keep getting better and better," he said. "I felt good in there. It's good that we have a few days here to kind of regroup between series and I'm excited to get back, and hopefully I can get back as soon as possible."