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Hawks optimistic about depth at center

CHICAGO -- At some point someone is going to call Chicago Blackhawks center Dave Bolland injury prone. It will be tough to disagree with that notion.

Bolland has played in exactly 100 games the past two seasons. The time he missed due to a concussion last year is simply bad luck, but it seems to follow him.

Now comes word he might miss the opening weekend of the 2011-12 season. If it’s his surgically repaired back that’s acting up, that could portend a huge problem for the Hawks -- Joel Quenneville, for what it's worth, continues to call it a nonserious situation. Coach Q is usually pretty open about his optimism or pessimism as it relates to injuries, even if he’s not really revealing about the nature of the injury itself. But that’s the NHL these days.

Whatever the case with Bolland, his situation continues to highlight a crucial area of concern for the Hawks: the center position. Do the Hawks have enough on the roster or in the system to get the job done for the long haul? They think so.

“Patrick [Kane] has played center most of his life until a couple of years ago,” general manager Stan Bowman was saying on Tuesday. “He’s such a smart player, I think that’s the one thing you have to do to be able to play center. To be honest I like watching him play with Marian [Hossa]. I think that’s the one difficulty we’ve had the last couple of years, those two guys never played together because they play the same position. I really liked how it’s worked out so far.”

Kane has been decent enough but can anyone see him playing center in late April and May? Maybe. It’s just hard to see right now. About as hard as seeing Brandon Saad on Jonathan Toews’ wing come spring. But you never know.

“We’ve got a lot of options,” Bowman continued. “I am very comfortable at that position. Brandon Pirri had an excellent camp. Marcus Kruger started slowly but came on towards the end. We’ve got a lot of guys capable of playing that position.”

If Bolland can’t go expect Pirri to be recalled and play between Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell on opening night. Quennville said Wednesday he likes Frolik and Bickell “along the wall,” meaning at wing. Frolik has been at center the past two days, but Pirri was only second to Saad in terms of impressive prospects in camp this fall.

Whomever plays in the middle Friday night -- and beyond -- will be under the scrutiny of Hawks’ nation. We'll soon find out if Bowman is right when he says the team has enough in the middle.

Montador’s progression

If you thought new defenseman Steve Montador was having an average training camp, you’re not alone.

“I think he’s had a so-so camp,” Quenneville said. “I thought he improved as we’ve gone along here but we’ll continue to make sure he’s comfortable. I think that hesitation in his game whether it be new teammates or new systems, thinking before you react..Once he just gets out there and plays he’ll be more comfortable.”

Credit the coach, he was given an “out” when asked if Montador was just pressing as a newcomer. Quenneville wouldn’t bite sticking with his need to just get “comfortable.”

For the second day in a row Montador was paired with John Scott at practice on Wednesday making it more and more likely that duo will be on the ice come Friday in Dallas.

Power up

The Hawks did extensive work with their power-play units on Wednesday. Both 5-on-4 and 5-on-3. With Patrick Sharp back at practice, the units look like this:

Andrew Brunette, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were the forwards on the first unit with Sharp on the left point and Duncan Keith on the right side. It’s the position that Sharp scored a team and career high 12 power play goals from last year mostly sneaking down for one-time opportunities.

The second unit consisted of Brandon Saad, Michael Frolik and Marian Hossa up front, with Brent Seabrook and Nick Leddy on the point. Leddy and Seabrook will play on their off sides giving Seabrook the same look Sharp has for one-time chances. Expect some good numbers from Seabrook on the power play.

The Hawks were just 3-for-14 on two-man advantages last season hence the extra work in that department.

Slappers

• Brandon Saad will play left wing while Patrick Sharp will be on the right side when they line up with Jonathan Toews Friday in Dallas. Sharp has played on the left when Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane has been on that line but Saad is used to the left wing and will start there. Joel Quenneville said the two could switch if need be.

• The Hawks will hold a final preseason practice on Thursday before flying to Dallas and finishing the day with a “team event” before their season-opening game Friday night.