CHICAGO – Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy has averaged almost 19 minutes of ice time per game during three seasons in the NHL.
So it was more than a little peculiar when Leddy was reduced to a sweater-wearing spectator for most of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Despite being healthy, Leddy played only four shifts in the game and logged 2:37 of ice time while the Hawks’ other five defensemen played at least 33 shifts apiece.
As he looked toward Game 5, Leddy said Friday he had moved past his benching.
“It’s about the team,” said Leddy, who has two assists in 21 playoff games. “It’s not really about me. We won the last game and now we’re focusing on the next one.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville avoided specifics when asked about Leddy’s reduced role, but he said he expected the 22-year-old defenseman to play more Saturday.
“I thought the five guys in our rotation were getting the job done [in Game 4],” Quenneville said. “But every game is different. He brings a nice guy from our back
end that can move the puck and defend and do what we need him to do to get
involved in the attack as well offensively.
“We’ll look forward to getting him more involved as well [Saturday].”
Targeting Z: One of the most remarkable statistics from Game 4 of the series was that Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was on the ice for five of the Hawks’ six goals, including the overtime game-winner by Brent Seabrook.
Hawks forward Patrick Sharp corrected anyone who believed that the Hawks had solved Chara, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound behemoth who was key to Boston’s Stanley Cup championship two seasons ago.
“We’re definitely not sitting in here thinking we’ve got him figured out,” Sharp said. “That’s ridiculous.”
More reasonable is the Hawks’ approach to Chara: Hit him often. Wear him down.
“He logs a lot of minutes,” Hawks forward Bryan Bickell said. “To hit him, just to finish your check – not a huge hit – you just need to wear him down and just know that we’re coming [for] him. Maybe we’ll get some turnovers or just wear him down, but we just need to get our hits in when we can.”
No practice: Hawks forward Marian Hossa missed practice Friday, but Quenneville said he expected Hossa to play in Game 5 just as he did in Game 4.
An upper-body injury kept Hossa out of Game 3 and has limited the 14-year veteran for much of the series. As was the case Wednesday, Jamal Mayers practiced with the second line alongside Michal Handzus and Sharp with Hossa sitting out.
“We did that in the morning skate the other day,” Quenneville said. “Hossa is fine.”