Bolland, Hawks ready for a memorable return
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The Rat is back.
Dave Bolland, who had a significant hand in the Blackhawks' two Stanley Cup titles, returns to the United Center on Saturday for the first time since he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Blackhawks game day
Blackhawks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center, 6 p.m. Saturday
TV: Channel 9
Radio: WGN-AM 720
The skinny: The Maple Leafs are 6-2 and tied for first place with Detroit in the Atlantic Division despite losing 3-2 to Carolina on Thursday. Goalie James Reimer (neck) and winger James van Riemsdyk (back spasms) are questionable. Jonathan Bernier is expected to start in goal against Corey Crawford. The Maple Leafs are still without suspended forward David Clarkson for two more games.
Next: Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
— Tim Sassone
When Hawks fans last saw Bolland on the ice, he was capping the most memorable 17 seconds in franchise history with the goal that gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Boston's TD Garden.
The Hawks, who entered the final 1:16 trailing 2-1, killed off the game's final 59 seconds to claim their second Stanley Cup in four years.
That was June 24.
Six days later, Bolland was traded for two draft picks.
"I had some kind of idea (that a trade was coming)," Bolland said. "I knew the cap was going down. You know you're not going to likely stick around (one team) for your whole career. That really doesn't happen anymore. That's why I figured that sometime in my career, that was going to happen."
Bolland admits he has been thinking about this game since the schedule came out.
"I played there for eight years," he said. "You've spent your career with that organization. You've spent so much time at that rink. You know all the ins and outs, all the kinks. Yeah, it's been something I've thought about."
While he hasn't thought about the reception he'll get, Bolland was popular here.
"I knew they were on my side when I was there," he said. "But now I'm on the other side. It's a little different. The fans were always good to me and I very much appreciate that.
"I don't know if I'll be nervous. Whatever happens, I'll go with it and have fun with it."
When he was with the Hawks, Bolland always drew the toughest defensive assignment. If that's the case Saturday, he can expect to see a lot of Jonathan Toews.
"Hey, me and him always went at it in practice, too," Bolland said. "Tazer knows the style I play and what I like to do so we'll have some fun on the ice and it'll be competitive. You'll always be good friends no matter what happens."
Toews said he is ready for the challenge of facing Bolland, who will try to shut down the Hawks' captain.
"We'll see about that," Toews said. "They don't call him the Rat for nothing. I know all his tricks, too, so it goes both ways."
Toews said Bolland is missed in the dressing room.
"He's a great guy, one of those guys you sat next to in the locker room; it definitely feels like you're missing something there when he's been around for six years and all of a sudden he's on a different team," Toews said. "To win two Stanley Cups with him and be a close friend and teammate for a long time, he's one of those guys you want to keep in touch with."
With the Hawks' third and fourth lines in flux, replacing Bolland hasn't been easy.
"He was a big part of our team," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Bolly was one of those players who brought something to the table and come playoff time his game rose to the challenge. You knew he would do well no matter where he ended up. I'm sure he's excited about being home in Toronto and he's done well to start the season."
The Hawks will honor Bolland with a video tribute during the first period. He received his Stanley Cup ring two weeks ago from vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac when the Maple Leafs played in Philadelphia.
"He meant a lot to this team," said Bryan Bickell, who was drafted with Bolland in 2004. "He was a clutch player. Last year he had a slow start, but come playoffs he definitely picked it up. Through all the injuries he's been through, he's battled through and always found a way to bring out his best."
Bolland has flipped the 3 and 6 to form No. 63 with the Maple Leafs.
"I'm not really sure what to expect," Patrick Kane said. "You know what kind of player he is; he's going to try to get underneath your skin and do that to you. I think we've known him well enough here that you can't let that happen."
Bickell isn't sure how Bolland will react going against guys he went to war with so many times over six seasons.
"He might be himself, but he's got a lot of friends in here," Bickell said. "I don't want to say he's going to go easy, but he's going to play a good game. He's not going to stir it up or anything. He's going to play his shifts.
"It's kind of funny to see him in a Leafs uniform. Coming from that area you always wanted to play hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a lifelong dream to play for that team. I'm sure it's going to be emotional for him."
In his six years with the Hawks, Bolland had 17 goals and 26 assists in the playoffs, but no goal was bigger than the last one.
"That goal he scored in Boston has got to be right up there (in importance in franchise history)," Kane said. "That's a great moment, from Bickell's goal to his goal, where you think you're going to go back for Game 7, and then you tie it up and think you're going to overtime and he scores and wins you the Stanley Cup."
The way Bolland played for the Hawks even impressed the opposition.
"He's a dangerous guy because he's patient," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "If you fall asleep with the puck he just burns you every time.
"He's a guy for me — he's a player. He's got hockey intelligence and he has this awareness that when you make careless mistakes he's got enough ability to make you pay for it. That's what he did in the playoffs both years that they won. He's a tough guy to play against because he doesn't overwhelm you with anything other than his hockey sense and smarts."
Bolland still stays connected with some Hawks.
"I still text with some of the guys and stay in touch: Toews and Kane and (Duncan) Keith, guys like that," Bolland said. "When you are on a winning team and you are together for that long, going through two Stanley Cups, I don't think any of us will ever break apart from one another. You win as a team and you are always along on that same path."
There's no animosity between Bolland and the organization that traded him.
"Oh, no," he said. "They've proven they're the top organization in the league. They're up there with the Leafs. With guys like Stan Bowman and Rocky (Wirtz) and John (McDonough) and Al and the rest of them, they're all class acts.
"They took care of me when I was there. Everyone was great to me. It was fun. I had some great times."
• Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone.
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