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Dave Bolland’s goal is to play through pain

Center Dave Bollpicked up an assist Saturday but overall his numbers are down. | Mark Buckner~Getty Images

Center Dave Bolland picked up an assist Saturday, but overall his numbers are down. | Mark Buckner~Getty Images

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Updated: January 5, 2012 8:35AM

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks have said the same thing for years: They are a better and deeper team when center Dave Bolland is in the lineup.

With Bolland, they can get favorable matchups, are deeper down the middle, have a player to check the opponent’s best players and someone with the potential to be a 20-goal scorer.

That’s undoubtedly the thinking that has the Hawks and Bolland ­doing whatever it takes to keep him in the lineup as he plays through a foot injury.

Injuries have prevented Bolland from being the solid two-way center he has proved he can be through his postseason success. Playing in his ninth consecutive game with the injury, Bolland was his edgy self with four penalty minutes and two hits in 12:38 in a 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday at the Scottrade Center. He assisted on Michael Frolik’s empty-net goal.

It was in St. Louis on Nov. 8 that Bolland blocked a shot with his right foot, forcing him to miss three games.

“Injuries always nag in this league,” Bolland told the Sun-Times. “It’s just battling through it and just trying to stick to my game.

“I could wish I went injury-free or you could wish that the puck was one of those light rubber pucks that when they did hit you out there I wouldn’t be hurting. For myself, it’s just doing everything I can to heal it quicker and still be in games.”

That means missing practice and pregame skates. While it helps his foot, it doesn’t help him develop chemistry with his oft-changed linemates or maintain his rhythm.

“You always want to be in practices,” said Bolland, who missed extended periods of time in his career because of injuries, notably a concussion and back surgery. “Practices are what really keep you going and keep your speed out there and keep your skills up to par.

“I think every game you play it gets agitated. Any blocked shot or any little rut in the ice [where] you twist it or anything. It’s just one thing that’s going to keep nagging.”

Bolland opened the season with five goals (including two short-handed) and two assists in his first 10 games. In many ways, it was his production and defensive play that helped the Hawks have a good opening month. It wasn’t out of the question to add his name to the Selke Trophy discussion.

Since then, Bolland has only two goals and two assists. His once-touted checking line has struggled. Bryan Bickell was scratched for the second game in a row as Ben Smith took his place, and winger Frolik hasn’t produced offensively.

“We’re looking for more from that group,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

Bolland is looking for more, too. He’s doing his best to battle through it, knowing his style leaves him open for more injury-causing situations.

“As a checking guy .  .  . you sort of put yourself in those opportunities to get those little nagging injuries,” he said. “It’s just the way it is. It’s the way you play, the line you’re up against, if you’re on the PK or anything. Any one of those puts yourself in those situations. But those are little things that help your team get those wins.”

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