Nick Leddy grabbed the puck at one end of the CONSOL Energy Center ice and darted in the other direction, slipping past a Pittsburgh defender and getting a shot off.
It’s a style that Leddy enjoys, dating back to his brief time playing with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
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“I’ve done that my whole life, especially in college when you have the huge ice sheets,” Leddy said after the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Penguins, in which he logged 28:33 of ice time. “I like carrying the puck up. And if I can make a play off that, even better.”
Leddy took a big jump last regular season, when he looked like more of a veteran out there than a 22-year-old defenseman. The postseason was rough, however, as the longer the playoffs wore on, the fewer minutes Leddy played. But that was last spring and this is a new season. Leddy expects to get back to what he did through most of 2013. So do the Blackhawks.
And when he’s bringing the puck up ice with speed, he’s at his best.
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“That’s the strength of his game, when he evades that first guy and comes with speed on that attack,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He had a couple of nice looks in overtime and on a power-play entry or two. He’s dynamic when he has that element in his game. It’s a great asset to have, and utilizing it more often is what we’re looking for.”
The Blackhawks cut eight more players from their training camp roster on Tuesday, and all of them are headed to Rockford. Forwards Drew LeBlanc, Terry Broadhurst, Phillip Danault, Byron Froese and Kyle Beach (who was put on waivers yesterday and cleared them today), as well as goaltender Antti Raanta are assigned to Rockford.
Forwards Brad Mills and Maxim Shalunov were released from camp. Both will also go to Rockford; Mills goes there on an AHL contract and Shalunov on a tryout agreement.
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According to Renaud Lavoie, the Blackhawks also put forward Brad Winchester and defenseman Theo Peckham on waivers. The two remain on the Blackhawks’ camp roster until they either clear or are claimed.
Now, it’s crunch time. Just 28 players remain on the training camp roster (16 forwards, 10 defensemen and two goaltenders); coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will likely carry 23 players to start the season. With only three or four spots to claim, the last days of competition will be fierce. Jimmy Hayes and Ben Smith have put themselves in good position. Jeremy Morin has been solid. Brandon Pirri had a good game vs. Pittsburgh on Monday night, his first of the preseason. But will he need to do more to stay here?
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With the Blackhawks likely carrying eight defenseman to start the season, Ryan Stanton or Mike Kostka could be that extra blue liner.