After a poor performance in Game 2, Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy was eager to atone in Tuesday’s Game 3 before an Xcel Energy Center crowd that included many friends and family members. The Eden Prairie native didn’t get the chance to do so, though. He was scratched from a playoff game for the first time since joining the Blackhawks in 2010-11.
Leddy, 23, had played every regular-season and playoff game for the past three seasons. He spent much of the third period of Game 2 on the bench, playing only three shifts for a total of 46 seconds. Leddy had been partnered with Michal Rozsival on the Blackhawks’ third defensive pairing and is averaging 15:26 of ice time in the playoffs, the least of any Chicago defensemen.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, after the Wild’s 4-0 victory, said he scratched Leddy to get Sheldon Brookbank in the lineup. “[Brookbank] came in at St. Louis, and he deserved to get a chance to play,” Quenneville said of the defenseman, who took the place of the suspended Brent Seabrook for three games during the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Blues. “He could give us some physical presence. I thought he played well.”
Quenneville has not been shy about shaking up his lineup in the playoffs. He scratched Brandon Bollig, who played all 82 regular-season games, in Game 2 and has scrambled his lines throughout the first nine games. Bollig rejoined the lineup Tuesday in place of Jeremy Morin.
Tuesday morning, Leddy said he didn’t want to dwell on his Game 2 shortcomings.
“I don’t think it was one of my better games,” Leddy said. “I have to be better.
“It’s a long season. You have good games and bad games. You’ve just got to focus on the present.”
Strong, silent type
Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was not allowed to speak Tuesday, a residual effect of being hit in the throat by a shot in Sunday’s Game 2 victory. There was no question, though, about his ability to play.
Hjalmarsson wore a protective device around his neck during Tuesday’s morning skate and in Game 3. He quickly shook off the pain when he was struck Sunday and did not miss a shift, finishing with four blocked shots. Hjalmarsson leads the NHL with 30 blocks in the playoffs.
Quenneville expected Hjalmarsson’s experience and familiarity with his teammates to override the disadvantage of being unable to talk during Game 3. He also praised Hjalmarsson for his willingness to take on a dangerous, yet important, task.
“That’s what makes him such a good defender,’’ Quenneville said. “You’re taking away [the opponent’s] primary options by getting in shooting lanes. All of a sudden, they have to have their second and third looks, which isn’t as enticing.’’
Defenseman Johnny Oduya appreciates his teammate, too. “He’s a tough character,’’ Oduya said. “He’s a Swedish Viking. It’s good for morale. We know he’s always out there doing his job.’’
Tuesday’s loss continued an unhappy streak for the Blackhawks. They now have lost the opening road game in nine consecutive playoff series dating to 2010. The defeat also ended a six-game win streak in these playoffs, which began with Game 3 against St. Louis.
The Blackhawks had talked about the importance of a good start Tuesday to nullify the effect of the Wild’s home crowd. Quenneville said he was pleased with the way his team played early, even though it wasn’t enough to propel it to victory.
“When you win six in a row in the playoffs, you should be very happy,” he said. “Every series is tight. It’s hard to win one game, let alone six.
“We had the start we were looking for, but scoring first was key.”