After helping the United States win the bronze medal at the IIHF World Juniors Championship in Buffalo earlier this week, Nick Leddy
thought his next stop was back home in Minnesota.
Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks
called him up to the NHL to rejoin the team he started playing with this season. The Hawks officially recalled Leddy on Friday from Rockford of the American Hockey League after sending veteran defenseman Jassen Cullimore
there on Thursday.
Cullimore played in 36 games for Chicago and had 8 assists with a plus-4 rating.
It's been quite a week for Leddy, a 19-year old puck-moving defenseman. After Chicago's morning skate on Friday, Leddy said playing in the WJC and 22 games with Rockford helped him improve from the six games he spent with the Hawks to start the season.
"It was an unbelievable experience and an experience I'll never forget," he said of winning the bronze with the U.S. team. "We got off to a pretty slow start (against Canada in the semifinals), but I'm just glad we went out on a positive note."
After scoring 1 goal with Chicago -- his first in the NHL -- Leddy was sent to the AHL, where he scored 2 goals and 10 points with a minus-7 rating for the IceHogs before joining Team USA for the WJC. In that tournament, Leddy played in all five U.S. games and tallied 2 assists with a plus-1 rating.
Now he's back in Chicago after developing all aspects of his game at the lower levels.
"You gain more confidence as you play, but this is another step up in the NHL," he said. "Every level you jump, there's just going to be more skilled players and you've got to adjust to that league. I guess we'll see what happens, but I'll do my best."
Leddy will likely be paired with Jordan Hendry
as Chicago's third defense tandem against the Ottawa Senators
on Friday night at the United Center. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville
said it's also possible that Leddy might get some time on the penalty kill unit, which is currently ranked 28th in the League (77.3 percent).
Quenneville likes what Leddy did in the minors and at the WJC and hopes that translates to the NHL.
"He's progressed," Quenneville said. "He looks bigger off the ice and on the ice. I think the World Juniors was good for him, as well. He gives us more puck possession, more presence offensively in that area. He played well when he was here earlier. I just think he added consistency as he worked his way down there."
As for which team Leddy rooted for in the gold medal game between Canada and Russia, the U.S. rivalry with the Canadians was too big to overlook. Was he actually cheering for Russia to pull the upset?
"I might have been," Leddy said, smiling.
Stalberg not panicked: Hawks forward Viktor Stalberg
hasn't scored a goal in 19 games, but has gone through a period of really bad luck in that stretch.
It started on Dec. 11 against the San Jose Sharks
on the road, when an apparent goal by Stalberg wasn't allowed because of a quick whistle during a scramble. Then, on Jan. 2 against the Anaheim Ducks
on the road, a puck Stalberg shot from the low slot was redirected over the goal by a teammate.
Stalberg was so sure the puck was going into a wide opening in the net that he even began to raise his arms to celebrate. Instead, no goal and the Hawks lost 2-1.
Yet, that wasn't the craziest stroke of bad luck for Stalberg. In Chicago's 4-2 home loss to Dallas on Wednesday, Stalberg was awarded a penalty shot after being tripped in the second period. He beat Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen
, but his backhand shot hit the right post, crossbar and then left post without crossing the goal line.
"I don't think I could get 1,000 pucks out there and do the same thing," Stalberg said on Friday. "Basically it's impossible. It's just one of those things. I heard there's one guy (who's) done it before a couple years ago, but that's about it."
As for his current string of bad luck?
"I don't feel too stressed about it for some reason," said Stalberg, whose last goal was potting the overtime winner Nov.14 at home against Anaheim. "If it was last year (with the Toronto Maple Leafs
), I probably would have. I know I can score goals. Hopefully when the first one goes in, more will keep coming. It's been too long for sure."
Ruutu looking to produce: Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu
has just 2 goals and 8 points in 38 games played, which he feels isn't enough for a team looking to turn a frustrating season around.
"I've been playing too much on the safe side, and I have to make an impact," Ruutu said. "I still want to play my game, as always. I don't want to change too much. But ... less thinking, more skating."
Likely goaltenders: Corey Crawford
will get the start for the Blackhawks, who are looking to work their way up the Western Conference standings after starting the day in 12th place with 45 points. Brian Elliott
will most likely start for the Senators again, as Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said on Thursday that Pascal Leclaire
(lower body) isn't quite ready to start despite practicing.