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Leddy’s roots are with Wild, Minnesota

The Blackhawks Nick Leddy (left) has emerged as a defensive force this season. Now, he'll play his home-state team and the team that drafted him in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
The Blackhawks Nick Leddy (left) has emerged as a defensive force this season. Now, he'll play his home-state team and the team that drafted him in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

Late Saturday, Nick Leddy doubled back to the Scottrade Center locker room without fully grasping the workout his voicemail was about to get.

The Blackhawks defenseman did not know his postseason would be brimming with home games, the Minnesota native set to face his home-state team in the Wild, and the cavalcade of requests that would come with it.

Once informed of this dynamic, though, the 22-year-old confirmed he was prepared for the playoff grind.

"What will be most important will be the folks in my family," Leddy said. "If anybody has any requests, I'll let my dad and mom deal with it."

Any Minnesota nice from Leddy, it seems, will be performance-related.

His third season saw him provide a steady, productive cog in one of the league's deepest and most efficient blue-line crews, and the series against the Wild might be a multigame reminder of what that franchise is missing.

Leddy was a first-round pick by the Wild in 2009 and was stolen in a 2010 trade that saw Cam Barker head north and Kim Johnsson head to the Hawks.

He warmed up for the condensed 2012-13 season in Rockford and then became the Hawks' third-most productive defenseman with 18 points in 48 games.

"He had a strong start and he continued on," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "His defensive work this year, he improved – his quickness in the puck area, his quick transition on turnovers and turning it up ice. Very effective, very efficient. I thought he had a real good year."

The evolution was no revelation: Leddy is a young player who simply continued to burnish his game on both ends, and in every sense that is a matter of time.

His plus-15 rating was third-best among Hawks defensemen – just one behind Duncan Keith, for context – demonstrating an uptick in responsibility in his own end. Increased time on the power play helped kick-start the offense and also reflected the growing trust from the staff.

"His legs are his biggest asset, and he uses them quite a bit," said Brent Seabrook, Leddy's blue-line partner late in the season. "When he's skating and he's moving, he's pretty fun to watch. He relieves a lot of pressure and gets the puck out of the zone. He's been great."

The Wild, meanwhile, have been part of Leddy's development at nearly every step, it seems. It was right around the most notable run in franchise history – a surprise 2003 push to the Western Conference finals – that hockey took hold for Leddy.

He watched all the way, all the way until the Ducks and Jean-Sebastien Giguere foiled the Wild one round short of the Stanley Cup finals. Soon, he'd put many of his other interests on ice.

"I was playing three sports at the time, but I think the love of hockey was always there," Leddy said. "When it came down to it, you had to start playing summer sports, and hockey just took over."

Game 1

When: today, 7 p.m.

Where: United Center, Chicago


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