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Blackhawks activate Montador, demote Bollig
The stingiest defense in the NHL just got even deeper.
The Blackhawks activated defenseman Steve Montador on Wednesday, adding an eighth blue-liner to the roster. Montador hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on March 27 last season.
Forward Brandon Bollig was sent down to Rockford to clear the room.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t be much happier with his defense — entering Wednesday’s game, the Hawks have yielded a league-low 44 goals through 23 games. But when it came down to it, an extra defenseman is likely to be more valuable than an extra forward down the stretch.
“Never have enough D,” Quenneville said. “I know that’s one area and one position where your depth is going to get challenges over the course of the season.”
Montador was not in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, and Quenneville hadn’t decided yet if he’ll accompany the team to Denver on Thursday for Friday’s back-end of the home-and-home. But whenever Montador plays, Quenneville knows it’ll be a hard decision. Offseason additions Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank have been splitting time at the No. 6 defenseman spot alongside Nick Leddy, and each has played well. Rozsival has seven assists and is a plus-11.
“The first seven we’re playing to date were playing extremely well,” Quenneville said. “When I have to sit one out right now, it’s always a tough decision. They’re all deserving of playing and we’ll see with Monty working his way in. Certainly the group that’s been playing right now, we’ve been very happy with. We’ll see how it progresses.”
The Hawks have been fortunate to have had a healthy defense this season, which reached the halfway mark Wednesday. Brent Seabrook has missed one game — the only game lost to injury on the Hawks’ blue line all season. But Quenneville knows how quickly an injury can change things.
“Defense is a position where you love depth,” he said. “This year we’ve utilized all six that are in the lineup over the course of the game, where everybody gets more minutes than maybe in the past, a little more shared minutes. … Over the course of the season, sometimes the decisions are made for you, who’s in the lineup and how much they play. But so far nobody deserves to be out of the lineup.
Bollig, usually splitting games with Jamal Mayers on the fourth line until Daniel Carcillo returned from a leg injury on Feb. 22, played in 11 games, with no points and 40 penalty minutes as the Hawks’ primary enforcer. Quenneville’s not worried about a lack of toughness without Bollig, singling out Carcillo, Mayers and Brookbank as guys who can fill that role.
“We have some toughness,” he said. “We have some internal toughness, as well. We’ve got a competitive group. We want to be harder to play against — not necessarily being a fighter, but just playing hard on the puck and being resilient in that area.”