Nick Leddy goes on the offensive for Blackhawks
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter February 4, 2014 8:46PM
The facts: 9 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
Updated: March 6, 2014 6:58AM
LOS ANGELES — Nick Leddy is learning to speak up, but it’s not easy.
‘‘It’s not natural for me,’’ the soft-spoken Blackhawks defenseman said. ‘‘I was never the loudest guy in the locker room in high school and college. But I’m working on it.
‘‘You look around our locker room, the best vocal guys are our leaders. So when you’re a good vocal guy, it’s always good.’’
It’s unlikely Leddy will ever be a rah-rah guy in the locker room. It’s on the ice where communication is vital — especially for a defenseman who plays with a different partner from game to game or even shift to shift.
One other thing that plays into Leddy’s game: ‘‘Demanding the puck,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve really been trying to be more demanding. I think I’ve gotten better at it.’’
As a puck-moving defenseman, the more Leddy has the puck the better. He took two big shots against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night and the Blackhawks scored off both in their 5-3 victory at the Staples Center. Marcus Kruger redirected one for a tie-breaking goal late in the second period. The other beat Jonathan Quick to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead in the third period.
‘‘Both times he one-timed the puck,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘He should be looking for that type of shot continuously, because there’s no shooting lanes anymore. The number of people blocking shots and the action you get off one-timers creates a lot of activity.
‘‘We’ll take any kind of production, but Nick has the ability to do a lot of those things with the puck. Shooting is one thing that should complement his offensive ability.’’
The goal was Leddy’s first in 18 games. He has six goals, 17 assists and is a plus-13 for the season. Not exactly breakout numbers, but enough improvement to keep the Hawks satisfied.
Leddy had six goals and 18 points and was a plus-15 in 48 games last season. But he struggled in the playoffs — no goals, two assists and a minus-8 — as his playing time dipped to token minutes in the Stanley Cup Final.
‘‘I think he’s been on the right track,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We like the progress.’’
Teammate Michal Rozsival has noticed the difference in Leddy this season.
‘‘You can definitely feel him being more comfortable, more confident, being more vocal,’’ Rozsival said. ‘‘His offensive game has always been there. But he’s getting much better defensively. He’s reading the play better in the defensive zone, strong in the corners, winning one-on-one battles and creating turnovers. That’s the biggest improvement since last year.”
It’s hard to tell what makes Leddy tick. But the two-point night against the Kings couldn’t hurt.
‘‘It’s huge any time you can help the team win,’’ Leddy said. ‘‘[Scoring] is part of my job description. It definitely gives me a lot of confidence. Shooting the puck more is something I’ve been working on a lot. That creates more chances not only for me but for my teammates.’’