All grown up: Leddy found his niche

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All grown up: Leddy found his niche

Nick Leddy has had to grow up in a hurry. On the ice, anyway.

Just 19 when he made the Blackhawks team last fall, Leddy did a solid job. And coming into this season, with the losses of puck movers Brian Campbell and Chris Campoli, Leddy was expected to pick up a good deal of that slack.

So far hes doing just fine with the new responsibilities.

Leddy has been effective as a puck-moving defenseman and has found his niche as Duncan Keiths partner. He picked up two more assists in the Blackhawks 5-2 victory over Columbus on Saturday night, giving him six points in 10 games this season. Thats one point shy of what he had in 46 games last season.

I like the way he comes up the ice with his speed, in the zone, coach Joel Quenneville said on Saturday night. He made a great poke-check to sustain the play (on Viktor Stalbergs first goal). He has good patience. Hes just one of those players who should keep getting better as he keeps going.

But whether it was last season when he was thrust onto a depth-depleted defensive core or this season with bigger responsibilities, Leddys mindset hasnt changed.

The coaching staff told me to just play my game, he said. So thats what I tried to focus on.

Pairing with Keith helps the progression, too. The duo played together a little at the end of last year, and when Keith talks, Leddy listens.

If Im not doing something he likes or that I can work on, hell let me know, Leddy said. Having him as my partner has helped me learn the little things.

Keith said Leddys adapted to the changes and greater responsibilities well.

I think its just a matter of him getting his feet wet last year and he feels more comfortable last year, Keith said. You can tell with his skating ability. He can do a lot of things out there. Plays the right side, which as a lefty isnt always the easiest side to play. He plays it well and he has a lot of confidence over there, too.

Leddys already had to learn a lot in his young pro career. Hes handling it all well and the Blackhawks are benefiting from it.

You see his speed and physically hes so much more mature than last year, Jonathan Toews said. Confidence-wise hes not afraid to play his own game out there. Hes not worried about Duncs, hes not worried about getting the pucks to anybody. Hes just skating and making plays as he sees fit.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.