- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Dave Bolland will have a nice, easy, skating game on Wednesday in his return from November back surgery.
The St. Louis Blues are in town, which means nothing will come easy. The Blues like to muck it up, and at times, play the physical angle instead of actually playing hockey. With two wins under their belt against their Central division foe, the Hawks know what to expect.
“They play a hard game,” Patrick Kane said after morning practice on Wednesday. “Some games are tough against them and some we’ve had a lot of success. Sometimes they try to make hits, and you just make a simple play, and you have two on ones and different things.”
Kane talked about “taking advantage” of the Blues' style. He also said it might be a good idea to “keep your head up.”
“You always have to expect someone running at you even in areas you don’t think people will run at you,” Kane said. “It’s a little bit different. That’s the way they play. It’s always an entertaining game against them. It’s always physical. We enjoy the games against them, sure.”
Bolland will play for the first time after missing half the season but won’t be thrown to the wolves. Coach Joel Quenneville likes his lines as they are, so he doesn’t feel a need to rush Bolland. He will start on the fourth line centering Ben Eager and Tomas Kopecky.
“He’s useful in all areas,” Quenneville said. “But I think he’s going to have to grow and earn some of that quality ice time as we go along here, so if he gets double digits [minutes] it’ll be something to look at.”
“He plays so well defensively and all areas of the game that he’s a really easy guy to play with,” Sharp said. “We’re excited to have him back.”
The return of Bolland means the Hawks will have an extra forward on the roster for the first time since he went down. Colin Fraser drew the short straw on Wednesday and will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
“I don’t think anybody is happy when they have to watch,” Quenneville said. “It doesn’t necessarily always have to be him. That depth gives us some more ammunition as far as our options go and creates some appetite as well.”
The Blues game marks the first time the Hawks will play at the United Center since Jan. 14. They are well aware of how hard first games back at home can be and even made note of the Chicago Bulls' loss, in the same situation, on Tuesday.
“Not even talking about our opponent, it’s always difficult playing that first game at home after a long trip, but it’s something we are aware of as a team,” Sharp said. “Whether it’s the Blues or the Red Wings, we have to make sure we come out with intensity and take advantage of this home ice.”
“Dangerous game,” Quenneville said. “Having a couple days off, we should come energized and refreshed and look to take advantage of the home ice.
Sharp is asked often about preferring wing over center but never takes the bait. His teammates, however, tend to “out” him. Brian Campbell said Monday on "The Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000 that Sharp has told him he likes wing better. Sharp’s response?
The Hawks have won nine consecutive games against the Central division.
Wednesday is Duncan Keith bobblehead night. Keith got a first look at his likeness after the morning practice on Wednesday.
“My teammates are idiots,” Sharp joked. “They really don’t know what they’re talking about. I really don’t care. It doesn’t matter.”
“Not bad,” he said.