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Nick Leddy having fun again, and it’s reflected in his play

The Hawks have asked lot 21-year-old Nick Leddy (defending Red Wings’ Darren Helm) this seasgenerally have been happy with his

The Hawks have asked a lot of 21-year-old Nick Leddy (defending the Red Wings’ Darren Helm) this season and generally have been happy with his play. ‘‘He’s growing in a nice way,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. | AP

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Updated: April 10, 2012 10:32AM

ST. LOUIS — For as much as the addition of Johnny Oduya has helped the Blackhawks’ blue line, little has changed for second-year defenseman Nick Leddy.

General manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville have admitted they’ve thrust a lot on Leddy, who will turn 21
this month. It was one of the reasons the Hawks made adding a defenseman by the trade deadline their top objective.

The responsibilities Leddy has had all season won’t decrease, though. In fact, he has added one more: He is manning the point on the Hawks’ first power-play unit.

‘‘Nick’s had some great stretches this year,’’ Quenneville said Monday. ‘‘He had a great start. He’s playing very well right now. That’s all part of the learning curve for a young defenseman, knowing that there will be some bumps along the way.

‘‘There are a lot of times where you can educate him for that consistency and that experience of reading different situations, but he’s growing in a nice way. That’s all part of it. He’s coming off a real nice game [Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings], as well.’’

Leddy isn’t a rookie; his 46 games last season disqualify him on that count. But if he were a rookie, his numbers would be the best among first-year defensemen.

Because Leddy isn’t a rookie, the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson — a 21-year-old considered the favorite for the Norris Trophy — is a good comparison because they are similar in size and skills.

After playing in 60 games as a rookie, Karlsson broke out with 13 goals and 45 points in 75 games last season. He also had a minus-30 rating. Karlsson has 66 points in 66 games this season.

Leddy has three goals and 31 points and is a minus-12 this season, but he hasn’t seen anywhere close to as many power-play minutes Karlsson has seen this season and last. Leddy also has totaled 113 minutes, 12 seconds on the penalty kill in 113 career games, as opposed to the 153
minutes, 34 seconds Karlsson has played in 201 games.

Niklas Hjalmarsson’s immiment return from a concussion should decrease Leddy’s time on the penalty kill, but it still says a lot that the Hawks have been comfortable using him on both special teams and for more than 22 minutes a game despite his limited experience.

‘‘It’s always hard when you’re getting scored on or not playing your best,’’ Leddy said. ‘‘Obviously, you don’t feel great about yourself. But the big thing is through that stretch of games, I wasn’t having as much fun as I was at the beginning of the season. But we’re starting to win again, and that’s great.’’

Leddy said his approach hasn’t changed with Oduya as his
defense partner. If anything, it has helped him to relax.

‘‘Playing with him the last couple of games, I just feel
really comfortable,’’ Leddy said. ‘‘I think his patience and his smoothness kind of help me out in a way and calm me down. It kind of helps me out, slowing
everything down.’’

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