Improved Leddy off to quick start

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Improved Leddy off to quick start

Nick Leddy went through his ups and downs in his sophomore season.
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman put up solid numbers, especially in assists, where his 34 were second on the team only to Duncan Keith (36). But Leddy was also a minus-12 on the season, a number that definitely needed to improve.
And in this early season, Leddy has been an improved defenseman.
Leddy started the season with an assist in each of his first four games, and is sitting at a minus-1 during the Blackhawks run to a 5-0-0 start. Leddy, whos in the final season of his three-year contract, is looking to regain the defensive game he showed signs of during his first season with the Blackhawks. While the lockout dragged on for months, Leddy honed his game with the Rockford IceHogs. He came back to Chicago looking more confident.
That definitely helped, Leddy said of Rockford. And weve all been playing together here (for two seasons). We all had a lot of chemistry together and that definitely helps.
Coach Joel Quenneville said some of Leddys improvement just comes from playing more.
With defensemen, as they mature, the more opportunities they see. That helps you in all aspects of your game, Quenneville said. The more you play the better you play; he got playing time in all situations down there and that should help.
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Leddy said he mostly needed to improve his defensive coverage and Rockfords coaches helped him do that, be it with on-ice tutelage or watching video.
Its about being stronger on my stick in front of the net, making that first strong play and helping get the puck out of the zone, Leddy said. I really needed to work on that.
Quenneville said hes noticed Leddys better defending work, be it even strength or special teams.
Hes got a better stick, hes coming up with some loose pucks and when he starts the rush from our end he can alleviate that pressure and skate by people, Quenneville said. Hes been good on power-play entries as well; and hes got a good shot. Hes been playing different kind of minutes against different kind of guys. Were comfortable against any kind of matchup with him out there but theres been overall improvement in his game.
Leddy has been a steady presence in the Blackhawks lineup but has had two different partners, Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank. Both provide a veteran presence for Leddy, who said its nothing to adjust to eachs style.
They have a little different styles but its nice that we all make a simple, easy play, he said. Everyone has their own style. You just have to get used to it.

Panarin’s rep: “He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago”

Panarin’s rep: “He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago”

A little more than two years ago Artemi Panarin had many NHL teams vying for his services, the Blackhawks winning the bidding war and signing him. On Friday the Panarin-Blackhawks union was over, the 25-year-old traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But according to his agent, if Panarin had it to do all over again, he still would have signed with the Blackhawks.

Dan Milstein, who represents Panarin, said the Russian left wing is forever grateful to the Blackhawks for the past two seasons in which he put up stellar numbers in consecutive regular seasons.

“The experience, playing on the same line with [Artem] Anisimov and [Patrick] Kane, having coach [Joel] Quenneville and many other members of the organization help him along the way, providing the translation services and being there for him, the entire process made his transition to North America extremely easy,” Milstein said. “He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago.”

Milstein was in Chicago on Friday morning when he got the call from Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman on the trade – Bowman told the media on Friday that the deal “came together pretty quickly.” Milstein immediately called Panarin, who was about to get on a plane for a fishing trip in Russia.

“Initially he was shocked. But as the day went on we kept in touch and he understands,” Milstein said. “He said, ‘I understand it’s a business. I accept the challenge.’ His last words were, ‘I accept the challenge.’”

The deal, which sent Panarin and his upcoming two-year deal worth $6 million per season to Columbus, brought Brandon Saad back to Chicago. Saad will likely bring stability to the Blackhawks’ top line, which has missed his presence since he was traded in the summer of 2015. Who Kane’s left wing will be this season remains to be seen. Quenneville said on Saturday that Nick Schmaltz will probably get a good chance there; he played with Kane when Anisimov was hurt last season.

Still, the chemistry between Kane and Panarin will be tough to match. Milstein said he saw Kane briefly at the NHL Draft on Friday night, and that he told Milstein, “just let [Panarin] know that I love him.”

Panarin, like most of the Blackhawks, had a very quiet postseason. After recording seven points against the St. Louis Blues, Panarin had just one assist in four games against the Nashville Predators. Not long after the playoffs Panarin was interviewed in Russian. One of the quotes, translated into English, read, “I was not in the best shape and didn’t have enough strength” for the playoffs. Milstein didn’t believe that was an accurate translation.

“If you know Panarin, in his native tongue he’s very funny. If you use a translator, sometimes it takes things out of context. But I don’t believe that’s what he meant,” Milstein said. “He put a good [regular] season together, a fair season, but the performance in the playoffs, obviously, he was disappointed. He was frustrated with his performance.”

Milstein said Panarin will probably head to Columbus in a few weeks; he’s currently waiting on visa issues. Panarin’s time in Chicago was shorter than most thought it would be but his agent said he’s ready for the next challenge.

“Artemi is looking forward to coming here,” said Milstein, who was in Columbus on Monday. “This will be a good opportunity to shine.”

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

When the Blackhawks traded to get Brandon Saad back, they also acquired Anton Forsberg, who they believe is ready to be their latest backup goaltender. On Monday they signed him to a two-year deal.

The Blackhawks inked two players on Monday, Forsberg, whose contract runs through the 2018-19 season, and Tomas Jurco, who agreed to a one-year contract extension.

Forsberg joins the Blackhawks having very little NHL experience – he’s played 10 career games at this level, going 1-8-0. But the Blackhawks’ previous two backup goaltenders, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, hadn’t made an NHL appearance before joining the Blackhawks. Forsberg led the Cleveland Monsters, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL-affiliate team, to a Calder Cup title in 2016; during that run he went 9-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.

On Friday, when the Blackhawks acquired Saad and Forsberg from Columbus for Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte, general manager Stan Bowman said the team is, “optimistic about Anton’s potential.”

“We like his profile as a goalie,” he said. “He’s a big guy, takes up a lot of net, has that mobility and makes good positional saves as well as athletic saves. A year ago, led his team to the [Calder] Cup championships, so he knows what it’s like to put a team on his back. It was the AHL but he’s had a lot of success there. He’s earned the right to be an NHL goalie.”

Jurco, acquired by the Blackhawks from Detroit in February, played 13 games with them down the regular-season stretch. Bowman said shortly after the trade that Jurco would get a chance here.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” he said. “I think a lot of ways, sometimes guys need different opportunities. It doesn’t work out in every place. A fresh start will be great for Tomas.”