Updated: May 8, 2014 11:13PM
These aren’t the best of times for defenseman Nick Leddy, but one thing was clear after his benching in Game 3 against the Minnesota Wild: The Blackhawks missed him.
Coach Joel Quenneville preferred the physicality and dependability of veteran Sheldon Brookbank in Game 3, but as it turned out, the Hawks needed an aggressive, puck-moving defenseman who could provide some speed through the neutral zone to escape from the clutches of the Wild’s rope-a-dope game plan in a 4-0 loss.
So it was no surprise that after Leddy was a healthy scratch, Quenneville said the Twin Cities-area product will play in Game 4 on Friday night (8:30 p.m., NBCSN) at Xcel Energy Center.
“Nick is going to give us some speed, give us some pace,” Quenne-ville said. “He’s got that quickness to his game that we’d like to be part of our team as well — so Nick’s going to be playing [Friday].”
The only catch is that Leddy is going to have to be better than he has been in the postseason. Leddy was benched for the last 18 minutes of Game 2 after the Wild scored on his first and only shift of the third period in the Hawks’ 4-1 victory. But Quenneville’s dissatisfaction became even more clear when Leddy surprisingly was a healthy scratch in his home state — he had played in 296 consecutive games, regular season and playoffs, since January 2011.
“It’s definitely a first,” said Leddy, 23, who has two points and is a minus-1 in eight playoff games. “Definitely a huge learning experience, a big wake-up call. I think any competitor would be ticked at that. I don’t think I was playing the way the coaches wanted, and it was a coaching decision. I’ve got to be better.”
If he was embarrassed to be benched in his home state, Leddy wasn’t saying.
“It would have been tough either way,” he said. “When you’re a competitor, you never want to sit. That’s on me. I’ll be better.”
How? “It’s just little things,” Leddy said. “In the defensive zone, going into pucks hard. It’s more little things than anything.”
The healthy scratch as a message has mixed results. But the message is clear.
“We’re looking for more,” Quenne-ville said. “Sometimes it gets their attention. It’s never personal. It’s, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ We’re trying to find ways to get the most out of each individual. Every [case] is different. But you’re expecting progress.”