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Blackhawks' Ladd ready for homecoming in Winnipeg

Ex-Jets captain was acquired by Chicago before NHL Trade Deadline

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It's going to be a strange feeling for Andrew Ladd, who will walk into MTS Centre on Friday and head toward the visitors' locker room with the Chicago Blackhawks.

After playing 429 regular-season games during six seasons with the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise, all their former captain has ever known is the path to the home locker room. Now he'll return for the first time since being reacquired by Chicago in a trade Feb. 25 as a key piece to the Blackhawks' push to win their fourth Stanley Cup in seven seasons.

It's going to feel odd.

"I've had a lot going on just trying to get settled [in Chicago] and organized, so maybe that's taken away from me thinking about it too much ... but it's going to be weird," said Ladd, who has two goals and four points in eight games since the trade. "You spend that much time with an organization, walking into the same rink each and every day, and now to go back there and be on the other side of the rink in a different dressing room? It's going to be a weird feeling."

Video: CHI@STL: Ladd deflects Teravainen's shot in for PPG

It might be pretty special too.

Despite being unable to reach agreement on a contract extension this season, which prompted the trade, Ladd made a lot of memories in Atlanta and Winnipeg.

After the Blackhawks traded him to the Thrashers following their 2010 Cup run, Ladd earned the captain's role by the end of the 2010-11 season. He signed a five-year contract that offseason, worth a reported $22 million, and helped the Thrashers make the transition to Winnipeg as the face of the franchise.

Ladd, who had 139 goals and 166 assists for the Jets/Thrashers, helped the new Winnipeg franchise make its first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. An ovation of thanks from Jets fans, at some point, seems likely.

"I guess you always hope for a good reaction and you're hoping for the best on that front," Ladd said. "I have a lot of friends within the organization, [athletic] trainers and guys on the team, so it'll just be weird to look across and see them on the other side for the first time."

Video: CHI@DET: Ladd pushes Blackhawks' lead to three

Ladd has some Blackhawks teammates who know the feeling.

Chicago acquired Andrew Desjardins from the San Jose Sharks last season, prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, and he returned to play in San Jose about two weeks later.

"It's pretty strange your first time back, especially if you've been there for a while and when it's so close to when you've been acquired," said Desjardins, who spent five seasons with the Sharks. "It was the same with me. It was a pretty strange feeling, just because you know all the guys across the way pretty well. And it's not just that. It's the atmosphere in the building, the whole thing of just being in the building. You're in the building, only on the other side, so it's always a little bit strange."

Video: WPG@FLA: Ladd tips in Byfuglien's shot on power play

Marian Hossa has played for five NHL teams and made multiple returns to places he used to call home. His advice for Ladd is simple: Enjoy the experience and try to make it even more memorable by playing good hockey.

"Definitely, it's overwhelming and there are lots of things going through your head," Hossa said. "With him being their captain, obviously, he was a big part of their hockey team. It's been a short time [since the trade], going back there, but I think he's going to have lots of fun with it. I think people love him there, and I think he's going to have a big game."

Ladd's second stint in Chicago hasn't gone as planned so far.

He was acquired to play left wing on the top line, with captain Jonathan Toews at center and Hossa at right wing, but coach Joel Quenneville has already broken up that trio. Ladd played left wing on the third line in Chicago's 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at United Center on Wednesday, and could remain there against the Jets.

The loss to the Flyers was Chicago's fourth straight, the Blackhawks' longest losing streak of the season.

Video: WSH@WPG: Ladd fires top-shelf PPG past Holtby

"Obviously, [that's] not the way we need to play, so things are going to happen," Ladd said. "You're going to try to switch things up and find a spark in some way, so there's enough depth up front that you have a lot of options and hopefully we can get back playing the way we need to play [Friday]."

Winnipeg hopes to spoil those plans.

The Jets are out of playoff contention, but they will have added motivation with Ladd in the building. They'll also have forward Marko Dano, the prospect Winnipeg acquired from Chicago, along with two draft picks, for Ladd. Playing right wing on the second line, Dano has three goals and five points in the past five games.

He and Ladd will be watched closely, but Ladd is the only one uncertain of how he'll be received. Jets fans are known for picking out an opposing player and booing whenever he touches the puck, so Ladd's fingers are crossed that teammate Patrick Kane gets that distinction.

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