CHICAGO -- The depression he went through over the past month didn't cost Dave Bolland his sense of humor -- or his sense of timing. Chicago's energetic center returned Tuesday night from a concussion that kept him out for six weeks and nearly scored on his first shift.
"Now I can remember these things," Bolland said with a smirk that only he's allowed to give considering what he's gone through. "In past weeks I probably wouldn't have remembered. I almost had that one and then I threw a hit, and after that I knew I was feeling good."
And playing great.
Bolland intruded into a playoff series that not long ago looked to be a forgone conclusion and wound up with a goal, 3 assists and a plus-4 rating to help Chicago save its season from dying Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over Vancouver. Bolland had an assist on his second shift and a goal and two more helpers during Chicago's four-goal second period.
The Hawks remain down 3-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series, but with Bolland back they feel as balanced now as he did on the ice Tuesday.
That's good on many levels for the defending champs.
"I'm just disappointed Game 5 is in two days -- I wish it was in a month to give him time to rest up again and see what happens," Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell said while laughing. "That's a sign of a great player, how he can do that. I know I wouldn't be as good as that. It seems like he can put on the skates at any time and feel comfortable."
Well, that's not exactly true. Bolland went through a self-described "dreadful" experience in the days and weeks following the concussion he suffered as a result of Pavel Kubina's elbow to his head on March 9.
Kubina was suspended for three games, but Bolland spent the next several weeks struggling to even to get out of bed. He couldn't call or text message with friends. He couldn't watch television. He couldn't step outside because the noise of cars whizzing by or sirens going off gave him headaches that only someone who has experienced those symptoms can fully comprehend.
"Going through some period of depression and going through other things is really tough," Bolland said. "I can feel for Sid (Crosby) and a few of the guys that are out right now because it's a tough process and you don't know when you're going to snap out of that concussion."
Bolland thought he snapped out of it last week in Vancouver, when the Blackhawks started talking optimistically about his return in the series – except that he failed the baseline test that he has to pass per the NHL's return-to-play protocol, and the doctors told him he would need at least another week before playing in a game.
"It is a heartbreaking seeing what happens (when you fail the baseline test)," Bolland said. "Guys have failed before and they get off the bike and they're just devastated because they want to get back on the ice. That's one thing, you never know when you're going to get back on that ice."
The optimism returned once the Blackhawks got back to Chicago on Saturday. Bolland was considered close for Game 3 but not quite ready, and on Monday coach Joel Quenneville said he was likely to return for Game 4.
However, there was still the matter of that baseline test, which Bolland had to take Tuesday morning. He did while his teammates were on the ice for the morning skate, and soon after the doctors gave him the good news that he was cleared to play.
"I came in positive, 100 percent, and knew I was going to pass it," Bolland said. "I knew once I did the test and the doctor said I was OK, I was ready to go. You don't want to get in too quick with these things because you never know what is going to happen, but I knew my head was 100 percent and tonight was my night to come back."
It was a night to remember.
Bolland assisted on Bryan Bickell's goal 1:43 into the game that gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead. He helped on Duncan Keith's goal 5:35 into the second period that put Chicago ahead 3-1 lead. Roughly nine minutes later he scored one for himself, and then with 1:03 to play in the second he sprung Michael Frolik for a breakaway goal.
"Obviously he helped them out," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said, "but he's not a guy who will change a series."
Oh, but he did for one night.
It may not continue in Vancouver, but on Tuesday, Bolland provided the proof that he will be a factor in this series after all.
That is no laughing matter.
"We know how badly we needed him back and he gave us that spark," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "Not only that, I think he brings a lot of balance to our lineup. We had a lot of balance to our four forward lines and that makes it easier on every line to go out there and create offense. He got us going and we played much better."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl