Hawks encourage Leddy after reduced role

Nicky Leddy played four shifts and a career-low 2:37 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook knows precisely what fellow defenseman Nick Leddy is going through after Leddy played just four shifts and a career-low 2:37 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday.

It wasn't that long ago Seabrook had to deal with having his own minutes drastically reduced by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Seabrook went from getting one of Quenneville's larger workloads to playing a season-low 12:03 in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings.

Seabrook eventually worked his way back into the rotation, got his minutes returned and provided the overtime game-winner in Game 7 against the Red Wings. He also came through with the game-winner to defeat the Boston Bruins in overtime in Game 4 on Wednesday.

Seabrook said Thursday it was key for Leddy to realize his chance to contribute in the Stanley Cup finals could still be out there and not to be beaten down by his reduced role.

“Yeah, Nick is a great player,” Seabrook said at the United Center on Thursday. “He brings a lot to the table. You know, that was a coaching move [in Game 4] that happened, and Nick is a great kid. You know, he works hard. He battles, and he's got to keep his head up, like you said, and just keep going.

“He's got such a great talent that anything can happen when he's out there on the ice. He's got great legs, he can shoot the puck real well, he's got a good hockey sense. I think for Nick, just in talking with him and a few of the boys, just told him to keep his head up and keep going, and I think that's the biggest thing for Leddy.”

The 22-year-old Leddy's minutes have fluctuated throughout the playoffs. He's had five games of playing 19-or-more minutes, 10 games between 14-17 minutes and six games of fewer than 13 minutes, including two under 10 minutes.

Leddy averaged 17:25 of ice time to go along with six goals and 12 assists in 48 regular-season games this season. His lowest regular-season ice time was 12:21 against the Red Wings on Jan. 27. Prior to Wednesday, his previous career-low was 6:12 which came during a regular-season game against the Red Wings on March 28, 2011 in his rookie season.

Quenneville said Thursday the game and the way the Blackhawks' five other defensemen were playing dictated Leddy's situation in Game 4.

“We went into the game, I think we were waiting to see how things played out,” Quenneville said. “Certain match-ups you're looking for in the course of a game. And we're on the road sometimes you can't get it, and sometimes the score reflects it and sometimes you get deeper in the game and you're going to wait and see, but I think that was probably the case [Wednesday] with the lead.

“[This season we] felt our depth on the back end, we've been much better than we've ever seen here. [In Game 4,] those five guys basically assumed those same kind of minutes across the board and rotated those guys evenly. Basically the first time we did that all year, and we'll see how that goes out.”

Quenneville spoke positively of Leddy on Thursday and said he would look to get Leddy more involved in Game 5 on Saturday.

“Well, Nick has got some nice assets, and I think quickness, getting up in the attack and turning pucks from defense to offense right away is one of his strengths,” Quenneville said. “And in the puck area, make sure we're killing plays and defending quickly in the puck area and eliminating players with a puck possession game by them in their zone, is what we're looking for.

“But at the same time, Nick gives us a nice presence on the back end, gives us nice balance. We didn't play him a ton [Wednesday,] obviously not much, but we still think that we'll be home [Saturday,] we look to get him back going. “

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said he realized what Leddy was experiencing wasn't easy, but Toews admired him for his attitude and still considered him an important piece to the team.

“It's not easy to keep your confidence and then go out there and be prepared for the next shift or to go and do your job when maybe you haven't been on the ice for quite a while,” Toews said. “There's some guys that maybe get their minutes or their opportunities reduced here and there, guys like [Viktor Stalberg] and Ledds. You try to talk to those guys just to stay with it because you know when they're out there, they can really make a difference for us.

“That's a huge sacrifice that guys like that have to make for our team, and we know mentally they're going to be ready, and those sacrifices aren't going unnoticed by their teammates.”