Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy making rapid progress
By Adam L. Jahns firstname.lastname@example.org November 17, 2011 10:34PM
Nick Leddy leads Blackhawks defensemen with two goals and 13 points. | Jay LaPrete~AP
BLACKHAWKS AT FLAMES
The facts: 8, CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: December 19, 2011 8:26AM
CALGARY, Alberta — At least once or twice a game, Nick Leddy looks more like a forward than a defenseman as he weaves his way through the opposition in Patrick Kane-like fashion.
For all the praise Leddy gets for his patience, it’s this blossoming aggressiveness that has really stood out in the first 19 games and made a huge difference for him and the Blackhawks.
“It’s a little more confidence,” Leddy said Thursday.
It definitely shows in his stats. Leddy, 20, leads the Hawks’ considerably deep blue line with two goals and 13 points. There still will be bumps in the road — like his minus-4 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this month — but all the good things outweigh the bad.
“I think I’ve gotten a couple of lucky ones,” said Leddy, who has five assists in the last four games.
The Hawks see special qualities in Leddy. At his age, it’s impressive that he knows when he can advance the puck and create odd-man rushes and when he can’t.
“You just have to see how the play develops,” Leddy said. “I’m going to pass it up if there’s a better option. But if there’s a chance, I’ll go.”
The Hawks’ blue line has played well during their four-game winning streak. But Leddy’s rapid progress has given the team another puck-mover since Brian Campbell was traded to the Florida Panthers this summer.
Getting Leddy from the Minnesota Wild in a trade for Cam Barker arguably has been general manager Stan Bowman’s best move.
“I like how [Leddy] comes up with speed on the rush,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “His play recognition coming out of his own end is good. . . . He’s going to get better and better with experience.”
Defenseman Steve Montador is trying to play down his recent success. But it’s difficult to shoo away the attention when you have four goals and six points in the last four games and you get involved in highlight-reel plays.
“When you look at this team,’’ Montador said, ‘‘there’s a number of players that get the scoring chances [and] get the goals because they’re just those type of players. They control the game, they hold on to the puck and they dominate. Having said that, if I can mix in with that and be with players like [Marcus Kruger ] and [Andrew Brunette], who can feed the puck . . . it’s nice to be part of the offense and contribute.”
Benny the bull
As expected, winger Ben Smith was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs not long after Rostislav Olesz cleared waivers and was sent down.
Smith, an unexpected playoff hero last season, had six goals and 10 points in nine games with Rockford after returning from a concussion suffered late in the Hawks’ preseason. If it weren’t for the concussion, it’s believed Smith would’ve made the Hawks out of training camp.
“He’s been playing well,” Quenneville said. “He earned the opportunity.”
Brent Seabrook (leg) will not play Friday against the Calgary Flames and likely will be out for the game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Michael Frolik (shoulder) also is questionable Friday after going hard into the boards in the third period of the Hawks’ victory Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks.