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Ladd's addition helps Blackhawks in many ways

Forward has Cup experience, can help spark Toews' line

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Andrew Ladd is exactly what the Chicago Blackhawks needed.

The 30-year-old forward has size, skill and grit, and could make an immediate impact at left wing on a top line that already features captain Jonathan Toews at center and should soon get right wing Marian Hossa back from a lower-body injury.

Reacquiring Ladd in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday makes Chicago's top two lines look formidable, but the Blackhawks are excited for other reasons. Ladd, who has won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes (2006) and Blackhawks (2010), adds off-ice qualities too.

"We all know what kind of player he is," Toews said of the Jets' former captain. "[It's] not only his skill with what he can do on the ice, but his intangibles as a player. Everyone knows why he's a captain and what he does well and what he brought to his team in Winnipeg. There's no doubt that he's going to bring that leadership and that experience in this room. He'll fit right in with the guys that know him from years back."

Five players from the Blackhawks' 2010 championship roster remain in Chicago, but it shouldn't take long for the others to feel the same about their new teammate. Ladd is intense on the ice, takes a low-key tact in the locker room, and knows when to supply leadership.

That's why Toews was fired up Thursday, despite a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at United Center. Ladd, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is getting another chance to do something special in Chicago before an uncertain offseason.

The Blackhawks are looking to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98, and Ladd should give that effort a big boost.

"It's huge, because you know what Andrew Ladd's intention is coming here," Toews said. "You know what he wants to do, what he wants to accomplish. A lot of guys know what kind of person and player he is, so that transition is going to be as easy as it possibly can be."

One of those guys is defenseman Duncan Keith, who used to room with Ladd during his previous stint with Chicago (2007-10). Ladd and Keith now own houses not far from each other in British Columbia, and train together in the offseason.

Video: Breaking News: Blackhawks acquire Andrew Ladd

"He's one of my great friends, one of my best friends in hockey," Keith said. "I know him. I've seen him grow a bit. I train with him in the summer, so he's still that same guy. He's very humble and committed to doing whatever he can to help the team. He's just going to bring so many things to our team that we're all excited to have him."

Keith said he talked with Ladd a couple weeks ago about what it would be like if the Blackhawks brought Ladd back. That was after the Jets signed former Blackhawks defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year contract Feb. 8, which signaled that Ladd would be traded.

Now that it's reality, Keith couldn't be happier.

"He brings more skill, more physicality, more of everything," Keith said. "I think the leadership factor and everything he brings off the ice is going to be a huge addition to our team. He's a smart player. He can make real quick plays in tight, and whoever he's playing with, he's going to make them better."

Once Hossa returns, Ladd will start out playing with two of the NHL's best two-way forwards. As a two-way forward himself, Ladd could potentially help Hossa and Toews produce more offensively.

Hossa has 10 goals and 28 points in 54 games. Toews is having his least productive NHL season despite 21 goals and 43 points in 61 games.

"I know their games pretty well and they're obviously great two-way players," Ladd said. "I think I should fit in well with that mold. You try to play a solid two-way game, but be able to chip in physically, maybe make some room for them and bring some offense to that table as well."

In the end, he'd like to bring another championship to Chicago. The last time Ladd pulled on a Blackhawks jersey, he was paraded through the streets of the city on a double-decker bus to celebrate Chicago's first of three Stanley Cup titles in six seasons.

The first victory parade was June 11, 2010, when an estimated 2 million fans swarmed the city in a sea of red, black and white on a hot, humid day. Twenty days later, Ladd was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and Atlanta's second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. The Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season.

"It was an exciting time for all of us," Ladd said of the 2010 Cup win and its aftermath. "The city was electric and we had a close-knit group of guys. It was an exciting time for everyone, [but] the reality kind of hit that, 'OK, not everyone is going to be sticking around.' I think my game has really evolved since that point … [but] it was a tough moment. You obviously don't want to leave, but it was good for my career in terms of the situations and minutes I played beyond that. I'm excited to come back and show what my game is all about now."

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