“It’s a little weird. That’s probably the best way to describe it. It’s a little different. I obviously spent a lot of great years here,” said Ladd. “I guess because it’s happening so quick it still feels weird. But like I said, when you spend that much time when the same group of guys, and the same organization, it’s going to be a little weird coming back and playing in that rink against a lot of friends on the other side.”
Ladd, 30, played 429 games with the Winnipeg Jets franchise, accumulating 139 goals and 305 points during that span. Jets forward Blake Wheeler said Ladd’s absence still feels a bit odd.
“It still feels like he’s just hurt or something and we’re expecting him back at any time. It will a little different seeing him on the other side,” said Wheeler. “It’s always good to get him on the ice, and I’m sure there will be some things said back and forth. It should be a fun night.”
The deal that sent Ladd to Chicago brought forward Marko Dano to the Jets (along with a 2016 first round pick in the NHL Draft, as well as a conditional selection in 2018). Though his first five games as a Jet were spent getting comfortable in the team’s system, Dano has three goals and five points in his last five games.
“It’s going to be fun for me playing against guys I was playing on the same team with,” said Dano. “Naturally it’s going to be a bigger motivation for me. I’m just going to keep it simple and play my game.”
Tonight’s game is the fourth meeting of the season between the Jets and the Blackhawks. In the only meeting at MTS Centre, the winning goal came off the stick of none other than Ladd himself.
Ladd said he doesn’t know what to expect from the fans in attendance tonight.
“I always enjoyed my time here and I think they appreciated what I brought to the table. I think we have a mutual respect for one another,” he said. “I think you’re always hoping for cheers.”
Jets head coach Paul Maurice says the players are happy to see an old friend, regardless of what bench he’s on.
“Other than Buff saying he might take a run at him, everybody is happy to see Andrew,” said Maurice with a smile. “The fans I’m sure are going to be appreciative when they have the opportunity to, then the game is going to take over.”
That game begins at 7 pm CT.
Nic Petan skated alongside Scott Kosmachuk and Adam Lowry as he prepares for his first game since his emergency recall from the Manitoba Moose yesterday.
The 20-year-old Petan has nine goals and 32 points in 47 games with the Moose this season. He believes he’s learned a lot about what it takes to be a pro in his first professional season.
“From getting prepared for games, to dealing with injuries. It’s all part of the process,” said Petan. “I learned a lot from the older guys down there, and guys up here as well.
“I’m excited, I think anybody would be excited to come up here, I’m excited for the opportunity tonight.”
Maurice said Petan shows a lot of promise with his ability to make good offensive plays.
“We’re looking for him to be able to do that at NHL pace, and show a little development and maturity over a year’s pro of when to apply some of those skills, and when to make those plays,” said Maurice.
With old friends reuniting on both sides of tonight’s match up, the players took the opportunity to meet up and have dinner with old friends.
Wheeler said he had the opportunity to see Ladd, as well as his family.
“(We) touched base a little bit, got the families together,” said Wheeler. “Always good to see what’s going on and see what’s good in Chicago.”
Dano also got to sit down with Marian Hossa, Brandon Mashinter, Erik Gustafsson, and Richard Panik. Dano said he learned a lot from Hossa during his time in Chicago.
“How he was preparing for practice, and how he was responding on the ice, and how he was working in general,” said Dano. “The attitude, the leadership. It was a good skill for me (to learn). Now I have to try and move on and be hard on him on the ice.”
ORANGE YOU GLAD TO SEE ME?
Speaking of familiar faces, today’s Jets pre-game skate saw the return of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Stuart, and Joel Armia in orange non-contact jerseys.
Ehlers (out since a puck to the visor Mar. 3) has missed seven games, while Stuart (broken hand, Feb 13) has been out for 15 games. Finally, Armia has missed five games since suffering a lower body injury on Mar. 6.
“Ehlers probably goes through four pretty good skates, gets into contact for three or four days, so it’s going to be another seven day block. At the end of that, if he passes, he’s good to go,” said Maurice.
“Armia has to get through two or three days of good skating, then into banging. it’s closer to a week, but maybe under. I would say the same for Stuart, more along the Ehlers line, he’s got to get to a certain percentage of strength in his hand. So we’re probably talking still another week.”