Dave Bolland could return to the lineup as the Blackhawks take on Minnesota.
Bolland is listed as probable for the 'Hawks game with the Minnesota Wild after missing the last five games. Bolland has been suffering from an upper body injury, probably of the "wink-wink" variety.
No matter what part of Bolland's upper body has been ailing him, his return to the middle of the second line is something that needs to be monitored closely. Obviously, you want to see how a player handles game action after being out 10 days. For Bolland, the stakes may be a little higher.
With the Blackhawks rolling along it is easy to wave off any issues Bolland has had in his new role through the 16 games he has played in 2012. However, there are issues just the same.
With the NHL trade deadline a month away, this is what we've seen from Bolland:
- He's not winning faceoffs. A 44.5 percent success rate isn't cutting it.
- With linemates Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp to feed, Bolland has two assists in 16 games.
- There are two 'Hawks who have negative plus/minus ratings this season. Sheldon Brookbank is a minus-two. Bolland is a minus-three.
The Rat hasn't exactly been dog meat out there, but are these the numbers you should be seeing from a top-six center? Bolland's been injured a couple of times so far, but that is yet another issue Bolland has to address.
When Bolland shoots, he's scored. He has five goals in 20 shots, but on his line he should either be getting prime opportunities from Kane or piling up assists. Right now, he isn't.
A look at some advanced stats, via Behind The Net, back up the fact that Bolland game has left a lot to be desired. Bolland is by far at the bottom of the roster at plus/minus relative to the team (minus-3.43). Bolland's Corsi numbers, based upon shot differentials while a player is on the ice, are by far the worst on the team (minus-24.88).
To be fair, Bolland is also facing tougher competition on average than many of his teammates. When the opposition is factored into the equation, Bolland shoots to the top of the list with a 4.11 rating.
I feel the need to point out that the player directly below him in this stat is Brandon Bollig, so we can't put all our eggs in the numbers basket.
Even with Chicago living in the high times of a nine-game win streak and earning points in their first 22 games, GM Stan Bowman needs to make a decision on Bolland as a permanent fixture on the second line for the remainder of the season. There is some cap space and some talent to trade to upgrade the position if need be.
Bolland could help his cause by winning more draws and raising his offensive game. To do this, he needs to be healthy and in the lineup. Tuesday night might be the start of what could be a referendum on the second line center spot.