The big question for the Blackhawks going into their first-round playoff series with Minnesota is the status of center Dave Bolland.
Bolland missed the last three games of the regular season after suffering what is believed to be a groin injury three minutes into last Monday's game at Vancouver.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has waffled on Bolland's status for the playoff opener, but a source told the Daily Herald that Bolland probably won't be ready for Game 1.
Even if Bolland is OK to play, there is no guarantee he will jump back into the second line between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, especially with how well Michal Handzus has played there in the last week.
Bolland had an inconsistent regular season with 7 goals and 7 assists in 35 games and is a team-worst minus-7. But the playoffs have always been Bolland's time to shine.
"We've had our fair share of injuries on that line this year," Kane said. "I thought myself, Handzus and Sharp played really well the other night (in Edmonton) and had some chemistry."
Kane isn't ready to count out Bolland just yet.
"We've seen it before when he has come back from injuries and had some good games and really helped us out, so maybe he can do it again this year," Kane said. "We'll see what happens. He's a big part of our lineup. He can play in pretty much any situation and play any role you give him, whether it's s shut-down role or offensive role."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has admitted it's possible Handzus could start the playoffs between Kane and Sharp.
"Handzus has played pretty good with those guys," Quenneville said. "It gives us another option as we go along here. Sometimes you find out things as you go along."
The X factor:
Trying to pick a player who is going to be the X factor for the Hawks in the first round against Minnesota isn't easy.
There are quite a few candidates starting with rookie left winger Brandon Saad, who goes into the postseason as part of the Hawks' first line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
"You kind of keep an eye on everybody," Joel Quenneville said when asked if he had any concerns about Saad in the playoffs. "Over the course of the year you watch for tendencies where it looks like fatigue might be creeping into their game. We watch everyone, be it Saad or our top guys."
Start me up:
The Hawks finished the season 26-2-1 when scoring first.
"It's a big part of the game," Patrick Kane said. "You always want to get out to a lead, especially in our building. The way the crowd is in the national anthem and the first few shifts, they're very into the game. If you can use that to your advantage by getting one early it should scare teams off a little bit."
Wild injury report:
Minnesota won't have Dany Heatley to start the playoffs. Heatley underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and remains out indefinitely.
Center Jason Pominville, acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline, is questionable for Game 1 with a concussion. Kings captain Dustin Brown elbowed Pominville in the face and earned a two-game suspension for the act.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.