EDMONTON, Alberta – Drew LeBlanc skated at Rexall Place on Wednesday morning, Patrick Sharp on his left and Patrick Kane on his right. It’s a harbinger of the plan for tonight, LeBlanc’s debut in a Chicago Blackhawks uniform.
So, Drew, what’s your plan playing with those two?
“Get them the puck and get out of their way is my strategy,” said LeBlanc, who will play in his first NHL game when the Blackhawks face the Edmonton Oilers. “Not two bad guys to have on your wings for the first game. It takes the pressure off me.”
And pressure doesn’t seem to be a worry for LeBlanc, who was signed by the Blackhawks on the same day the St. Cloud State product won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the best collegiate hockey player. For LeBlanc, this is a great opportunity. But he won’t stress himself out on what he should do once the puck drops.
“Just trying not to screw up too much. Play smart, use your instincts,” LeBlanc said. “ I’ll do that to the best of my ability. For now, it’s more excitement than nerves.”
Patrick Sharp, who’s back in the lineup tonight, skated extra with LeBlanc during his injury time.
“He’s a good skater, has great skill and looks shifty out there,” Sharp said. “But I don’t want to give away too many secrets before the game.”
LeBlanc was scheduled to come on this trip for some time now, so it’s not surprising he’s getting in this game. With Dave Bolland sidelined with a groin injury -– coach Joel Quenneville said Bolland should be back before the playoffs begin -– this was as good a time as any for LeBlanc to debut.
“It’s a great chance to get him to play, and we’re looking forward to seeing him as well,” Quenneville said. “It’s a big game for us, he’ll get a chance to pay with a couple of good options, and we’ll see how it works out.”
The excitement is there for the first NHL game. Hopefully, LeBlanc said, the nerves won’t be.
“I hope they’re not expecting me to be too great out there,” LeBlanc said with a smile. “It’s a great experience for me, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ll have fun and see where it gets to me.”