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New defensive pairing struggles vs. Avs

DENVER -- The new defensive pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy is off to a shaky start.

Hjalmarsson was minus-3 and on the ice for all four Avalanche goals while Leddy was on the ice for three during the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to Colorado on Thursday night. Both were in the middle of the final sequence, in overtime, which ended when Paul Stastny put in the winner.

“I don’t even know what happened,” a dejected Hjalmarsson said after the game. “We could have been better. It was the first game and all that stuff, but hopefully we’ll be better against Detroit [on Saturday].”

It might be a statement on the Hawks' depth at that position that a 19-year old is on the ice, in his first game, playing four-on-four hockey in overtime.

“He could have gotten some help there down low,” Joel Quenneville said of Leddy and the winning goal. “I think we anticipated getting the puck out of the zone, and we didn’t have it. [Colorado] made a nice play, but it could have been tighter.”

Neither Jordan Hendry nor John Scott saw action after regulation. Hendry played 5 minutes, 33 seconds while Leddy was on the ice for over 19 minutes. The Hawks will need more out of their other defensemen if they are to bring Leddy along a little slower than they did opening night.

Leddy mishandled a puck in the first period which led to Colorado’s first goal. Despite being on the ice for some negative plays, Quenneville wasn’t about to blame the teenager.

“I thought he played all right,” Quenneville stated. “He’s only going to get better off these levels. I’m sure not an easy game, first game. He played the rush well, and he’ll see a lot of different situations defensively in his d-zone coverage, and I think he’ll only get better.”

Until he does, and until Quenneville has more faith in Hendry and Scott, the burden is going to fall on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Keith played a whopping 33 minutes, 39 seconds while Seabrook was on the ice for over 28 minutes. Scott only saw about 90 more seconds than Hendry.

In the end, Leddy held his own for what he was asked to do but with a thin defense the Hawks don’t have much margin for error. Brian Campbell’s injury made an immediate impact. The question is, will it continue until Campbell returns?