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Ladd credits increased ice time for scoring run

by Sergei J. Feldman
NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd has no immediate plans to compete for an Art Ross Trophy or be labeled the League's best player.

Tallying 157 points in 329 NHL games will contribute to that reservation.

But the fourth pick of the 2004 Entry Draft is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and current offensive machine. On a team with more notable names such as Evander Kane, Nik Antropov, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, it is Ladd who sits atop the Thrashers' scoring list with 8 points in eight games.

What gives?

"He's an all-round player and he can do it all," said Byfuglien, who teamed with Ladd to win last season's Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.

A complimentary assertion, to be sure. But Ladd pointed to a simpler explanation.

"I think I'm getting a lot of opportunities to play in different situations like the power play and penalty kill," he said. "It's been fun to play a lot and be involved all the time. I think that's translated into feeling better out there."

"I think I'm getting a lot of opportunities to play in different situations like the power play and penalty kill. It's been fun to play a lot and be involved all the time. I think that's translated into feeling better out there." -- Andrew Ladd

Entering Wednesday's game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the 24-year-old, six-year veteran is riding a five-game point streak and has registered at least a point in all but one game in the 2010-11 season.

However, Ladd deflected any attempt at flattery and acknowledged his seemingly telepathic play with linemates Bryan Little and Anthony Stewart.

Little, according to Ladd, makes it easy for him to get open and gets open effectively himself, while Stewart is a, "big, strong, up-and-down winger who creates a lot of space."

Whatever the explanation, it's the results that matter.

However, Ladd's results -- and, in turn, Atlanta's results -- can be traced to his experiences around some of the League's more prolific scorers.

From players like Rod Brind'Amour and Eric Staal in Carolina, where Ladd spent his first three seasons, to recent teammates Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa in Chicago, osmosis has played an invaluable role in his development.

"You can always learn from talented players," Ladd said. "You just pick up things in terms of how they play.

"I think the biggest thing is the way they work. Those top-end players, they bring it every night. That's huge in terms of being successful. If there's one thing I've picked up on, it's that."

So far, Ladd has brought it every night, and in myriad ways.

He's scored on the power play and shorthanded, and couple that with the ability to win a timely faceoff, and you’ve got quite a weapon against any opponent.

That hasn't gone unnoticed by the coaching staff, particularly coach Craig Ramsay.

"I coached against him a little bit when he was in Carolina and, of course, Chicago," he said. "I've heard so many good things about him. He battles. He's a great competitor. And that's the most important thing for what we're trying to accomplish here, to get our battle quotient up.

"He attacks aggressively offensively, now he's blocking shots. He's doing a good job killing penalties and is strong on the power play."

As much as any coach would love those characteristics, Ramsay went out of his way to point out to the rest of the team a most simple, yet important, hockey play.

"In one instance, I showed the team a forecheck where (Ladd) chased hard, got his stick out and intercepted a puck and we had three chances off it," Ramsay said. "That's the kind of thing that he brings with him."

As aggressive, competitive and involved as Ladd plays, though, his demeanor in the locker room is that of a quiet guy just going about his business. But don't confuse that with an inability to lead.

"He leads by example," Byfuglien said. "He's not really loud. But if he says something, every guy in this room will nod and say yes. The guys will follow what he does."

If it means following Ladd's offensive production, the Thrashers may be brewing a juggernaut.
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