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Hawks still looking for a second-line center

CHICAGO -- The merry-go-round of centers to inhabit the second line for the Chicago Blackhawks grew by one more Tuesday night when Dave Bolland lined up next to Marian Hossa in the Hawks' 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

If you’re keeping track, add Bolland to a list that includes Patrick Kane, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri, Michael Frolik and Andrew Shaw as players who have tried their hand in that role. Only Kruger has shown the predictability and consistency Joel Quenneville is looking for, but he may not be ready for a playoff run once he’s back from his concussion. Joel Quenneville said that should be soon.

“He’s getting close,” Quenneville stated after an optional practice on Wednesday. “I don’t think we’re looking at tomorrow [Thursday]. Maybe looking closer to the weekend there.”

So Bolland’s stint might be short lived as the second-line center. Either way, he -- and whomever he skates with -- needs to do a better job moving forward.

“He was OK,” Quenneville said of Bolland’s game on Wednesday. “I think that line whether it’s the second line or third line, that line that he’s going to be on, we need more out of. That’s the one we’re looking for consistency in our team game we need to nail as we go on the second part of our season here.”

That might not be calling Bolland and some of his teammates out but its close enough. He’s minus-4, Michael Frolik is minus-6 and Bryan Bickell is minus-8. All have spent a majority of the season playing together on the third line.

“It’s always tough seeing minuses for guys,” Bolland said Tuesday before taking on the Jackets. “You just have to battle through it. You always have ups and downs. That’s the fun part of the playing in the NHL. You wish you can always have that high but you’re always going to have your ups and downs.”

Everyone knows Bolland will be an important cog come the postseason. His job, as usual, will be to shutdown the other team’s top players. He’s as good at it as anyone in the league but the season doesn’t start in April, it starts in October.

“As a group we need more, whether it’s more offensive zone time or less defensive zone time,” Quenneville said of that line. “Have the puck more, be a bigger threat.”

Bolland does just fine on special teams where he has four power play goals and three shorthanded tallies. But it means his five-on-five play is less than stellar, hence his below zero plus/minus. And he has just three even strength goals. It’s time for those numbers to change.

The instigator

There was plenty of confusion in the United Center stands as well as in the Hawks' locker room regarding the two instigator penalties Steve Montador and Jamal Mayers received when they fought Jared Boll separately in the first and second periods.

On Wednesday, Montador echoed Mayers comments from the night before regarding the calls.

“I don’t think I should have gotten an instigator in the first place just because I wasn’t the first one to drop my gloves,” Montador explained. “I went over and approached him but I think an instigator rule should apply for someone that doesn’t want to fight.”

Mayers went after Boll after he perceived a high hit on Andrew Brunette. The referees didn’t see it that way.

“On what appears to be a legal check, the person that approaches gets the instigator,” Montador said. “I didn’t see it as a legal check. I thought he left his feet or foot at least, maybe I’m wrong.”

Joel Quenneville intimated that everyone knows an instigator call when they see one and stressed where the aggressor comes from might be the over-riding factor.

“A lot of time it’s distanced traveled,” Quenneville explained. “I think that’s the one they will always look at and gets their attention more than anything.”

Quenneville is right. “Distance Traveled” is mentioned first as part of the rule:

An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.

Mayers may have come from the faceoff circle to the corner to confront Boll but Montador didn’t go very far.

“I don’t think [Mayers] or I jumped anybody,” Montador contended. “We approached [Boll] and he was willing to go each time.”

To add another layer to the issue Montador said he didn’t know about the part of the rule that states if given an instigator penalty while fighting with a visor on, add two more penalty minutes to the total. Montador began the fight with his visor on.

“I didn’t think it was exactly the right call but I didn’t the know the rule about the visor and the play happens really quickly,” he said. “The refs are doing the best they can too.”

Montador got caught up on the rule while in the penalty box for a total of 19 minutes. He talked to a referee supervisor while sitting for nearly a period.

“It’s nice that it was broken up with intermission but I don’t want to see in the box for 20 minutes,” he said. “I don’t want sit anywhere for 20 minutes. I was talking to the supervisor and then I was talking to [Mayers] when he came in. Just observing.”