Normally line combinations on the first day of training camp are about as meaningless as it gets.
But when the Blackhawks took the ice at Johnny's IceHouse on Sunday for their first day of camp with Dave Bolland centering the second line for Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, it was important news.
Bolland has been slotted at center of the third line for most of his career and gained considerable notoriety for his play against Vancouver's Henrik Sedin and others.
"My offense was always there," said Bolland, a 130-point scorer in juniors at London. "But I've always been taught that defense is the game and that you've got to take care of that.
"I think I embrace my role, and whatever is thrown at me, I take it. If this is what it is right now, I'll take it. It's a big role and I'm ready to embrace it."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has been known to change lines in the middle of a period, so things could change, but because the Hawks will open the season in five days at Los Angeles, how things lined up Sunday carried more meaning.
"One thing about Bolly, everyone kind of puts him in that role as third-line center," Quenneville said. "But a lot of times that line could be our best line. Having some offensive guys surrounding him, we think there would be some nice production between the three of them.
"I like the balance that line shows and the upside offensively that they all bring, but Bolly offensively has some skill. You could argue that on every team in the league he could be their second-line center."
General manager Stan Bowman always has maintained that the second-line center hole could be plugged from within. Last year it was Kane getting a shot there and now Bolland.
"I think in some ways we've slotted Dave in that third-line role for a long time," Bowman said. "Each player on our team has room for growth in his game, and in order to demonstrate that you have to give them the opportunity.
"We've certainly talked about this in the past going back a couple years about giving him an expanded role on our team, and the timing is now to see if that fits.
"We certainly know he can play in that role he's been in. His pedigree prior to becoming the Blackhawks' third-line center, he was an offensive player really.
"He scored 130 points in junior hockey, and a lot of players are big scorers in juniors and that doesn't translate into the NHL. But he has a lot of skill and he has scored a lot of big goals for us in some of our playoff runs."
Andrew Shaw was in Bolland's old spot on the third line with Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell. Shaw was playing center at Rockford all during the lockout.
"His whole career he's been a centerman," Quenneville said. "Last year he did a nice job for us on the wing. We like that versatility as well and that option as we go along here.
"We felt that last year in a different role on a lot of nights he just welcomed the opportunity and took off with it. We'll see how he does."
Shaw had 8 goals and 14 points in 28 games at Rockford.
"I've played center my entire life prior to last year and I'm confident with it," he said. "I'm just working on faceoffs in the defensive zone and pushing myself to get better. I can handle it. It just shows they have confidence in my game, and it gives me confidence."
The first line was Jonathan Toews between Marian Hossa and Daniel Carcillo, while Marcus Kruger centered the fourth line for Michal Frolik and Brandon Bollig.
Carcillo was thrilled to be back in the top six.
"It doesn't matter where I play," he said. "If they had me on defense, I'd play hard."
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