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Thursday, September 5, 2013
Top 50 Hawks storylines countdown

By Scott Powers

Brandon Bollig, Torey Krug
Is there a spot for an enforcer such as Brandon Bollig on the Hawks roster this season?
A Stanley Cup repeat attempt with nearly everyone back, the Olympics, Bryan Bickell's emergence, the continued evolution of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Nikolai Khabibulin's return, trying to replace Michael Frolik, Andrew Shaw's continued growth as an agitator -- the storylines should be aplenty for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013-2014 season.

ESPNChicago.com's Blackhawks reporter Scott Powers will count down this season's top 50 storylines over the next week leading into training camp.


Here's the first installment:

50. Bollig, the enforcer
The Blackhawks will likely be auditioning for five roster spots during training camp. One of those positions will likely go to Brandon Bollig. Some may argue enforcers aren't really needed on a team, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has often liked to have someone who isn't afraid to drop his gloves and step up for his teammates. With Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo gone, there aren't many of those type of players remaining on the roster. Bollig led the Blackhawks with five fights last season. He will be looking for his first career point this season. He has zero points in 43 career NHL games.

49. Sellout and attendance streak
The Blackhawks are aiming to lead the NHL in attendance for the sixth consecutive season. They have sold out the United Center for 187 consecutive regular-season games dating back to the 2008-09 season. They averaged a paid attendance of 21,775 during their 24 home games last season.

48. Nashville, St. Louis trying to keep Hawks fans out
The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues are tired of seeing Blackhawks fans fill their arenas when they host Chicago. To combat this problem, both teams devised plans this season to not sell single-tickets to their Blackhawks games. Fans now must buy tickets to multiple games to attend a Blackhawks game. This probably won't deter Blackhawks fans from attending these games, but it will probably add a few dollars to the opponents' wallets.

47. Player milestones
A number of Blackhawks are approaching personal milestones and could reach them this season. Marian Hossa is 65 points shy of 1,000 career points. Patrick Kane is 76 points away form 500 career points and 64 games away from 500 career games. Patrick Sharp needs one goal for 200 in his career. Jonathan Toews is 33 goals shy of 200 career goals and 28 points away from 400 career points. Brent Seabrook needs 10 assists for 200 career assists and to play one game to reach 600 career games. Michal Handzus needs 33 points for 500 career points and 50 games for 1,000 career games. Michal Rozsival needs 28 points for 300 career points. Nick Leddy needs 24 games to reach 200 career games. Corey Crawford needs 17 wins for 100 career wins. Nikolai Khabibulin is five games shy of 800 career games.

46. New goaltending coach
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville added a new member to his staff for the second consecutive season. Steve Weeks was hired in August as the goaltending coach after Stephane Waite departed for the Montreal Canadiens after 10 seasons with the Blackhawks. Weeks was most recently with the Atlanta Thrashers as an assistant coach and goaltending specialist from 2001-2010. Weeks will have two veterans in Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin to work with and likely a younger goaltender in Antti Raanta at some point.

45. Facing old Stanley Cup teammates
The Blackhawks return nearly everyone from last year's Stanley Cup roster, but there were a handful of players who moved on. Dave Bolland, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, now plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks host the Maple Leafs on Oct. 19. Goaltender Ray Emery signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, and they will play in Chicago on Dec. 11. Michael Frolik was traded to the Winnipeg Jets, and they will play in Chicago on Nov. 6 and Nov. 26. Viktor Stalberg signed with the Nashville Predators, and they will play in Chicago on March 13 and March 23. Daniel Carcillo returns to Chicago with the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 15 and Dec. 30.

Joel Quenneville
Joel Quenneville is 40 wins away from 700 in his career.
44. Quenneville coaching milestone
Quenneville has already placed himself among the NHL's elite coaches, but he has a chance this season to move further up that ladder. He's 40 wins away from 700 career wins, which would put him in third place behind Scotty Bowman's 1,244 wins and Al Arbour's 782 wins. The Blackhawks signed Quenneville in the offseason to a contract extension through the 2016-17 season.

43. Camping in South Bend
The Blackhawks had to move their training camp from the United Center due to a scheduling conflict, and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman chose his alma mater, Notre Dame, for the camp's location this season. Bowman said at the convention he was hopeful having the camp in South Bend, Ind., will be an early-season bonding experience similar to their 2009 European trip and having a long road trip early last season. The Blackhawks camp will run at Notre Dame from Sept. 12-15.

42. Seeing the East again
Like all teams, the Blackhawks will face opponents from the other conference again this season. Teams only played within their conference last season due to the lockout. The Blackhawks' first Eastern Conference opponent will be the Washington Capitals in the season opener in Chicago on Oct. 1. The Blackhawks will play the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Eastern Conference favorite, at Solidier Field in Chicago on March 1 and in Pittsburgh on March 30. They'll have a rematch of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins in Chicago on Jan. 19 and in Boston on March 27.

41. Outdoor hockey returns
Some feared Chicago would have to wait at least another decade before it experienced another outdoor NHL game after the Blackhawks played the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in 2009. The wait ended up being a lot shorter as the NHL announced last season it was going to increase the number of outdoor games it had each season. The Blackhawks will host the Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1, 2014. Soldier Field was home to a college hockey doubleheader last season.