For Nick Leddy, theres always going to be something special about stepping onto the Xcel Energy Center ice. Its where he played when he was with Eden Prairie High School during their 2009 state title run, and the memories are always there.
Those memories will probably be there again when Leddy and the Chicago Blackhawks play the Minnesota Wild there on Thursday night. But as far as seeing Xcel in the what-might-have-been sense; to wonder if the Wild, who drafted him, hadnt traded him? Well, thats kind of an afterthought.
The Blackhawks are the only pro group Leddy has ever known, and hes just fine with that. And in two seasons, the young defenseman is finding his niche with the team.
Leddy has just about completed his sophomore season with the Blackhawks, one that has certainly had its ups and downs. Yes, hes a minus-15, a number hed love to get closer to a positive. But hes also posted a career-high 34 assists, the second most among Blackhawks defensemen this season. In the absence of Duncan Keith, Leddy was there with the helpers, tallying five in four games.
Nicks had some real good stretches in the season, coach Joel Quenneville said recently. Its a long year, and there are some learning curves as far as positioning, consistency; its something young defenseman can be exposed to at times and grown into it nicely. His movement with the puck and coming up with speed, thats noticeable.
Also noticeable is the success Leddy and partner Johnny Oduya have had together. Paired about a period into Oduyas stint with the Blackhawks, the two have formed a solid and reliable duo on the ice. Leddy said hes learned a lot from the veteran Oduya.
Its been great. I think weve talked almost after every play, every time were out there. Or if he sees something I can do better or can help him out in any way, we talk about it on the bench, said Leddy, who added the two did build chemistry pretty quick.
We were talking the other day and (Oduya) said he played with a guy from the (University of Minnesota), too, Paul Martin, said Leddy of Martin, who played with Oduya in New Jersey. We play alike and I think maybe our play fits each other.
Leddys plus-minus, however, has been rough this season. But Keith said Leddy shouldnt take all the blame for it.
Every defenseman has tough stretches, Keith said. Weve had some times where weve allowed a lot of goals. He plays a lot and youre going to be on for goals but sometimes its not always your fault. Sometimes he took some heat but it wasnt all to do with him. Its a collective group out there. Hes been great all year.
Leddy will always go home, always get back to Xcel and its memories, twice a season. But there are no such visions about what couldve been with Minnesota. Its only about what is with the Blackhawks.
Ive been here long enough where I like it here, Leddy said. And I couldnt see myself anywhere else.