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Blackhawks' Andrew Ladd receives roaring ovation in Winnipeg return

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Blackhawks' Andrew Ladd receives roaring ovation in Winnipeg return

By Darrin Bauming

CSNChicago.com contributor

WINNIPEG — In a hockey-crazed town where countless No. 16 jerseys adorned with a 'C' are still donned proudly by fans of a player no longer on their favorite team. Consider, to this day, only one man has ever worn the captain's 'C' for the modern iteration of the Winnipeg Jets.

And to the surprise of no one, when Andrew Ladd stepped onto the MTS Centre ice for the first time since his trade to the Blackhawks on Feb. 25, a roaring and proud ovation for Winnipeg's former captain followed a brief tribute on the big screen.

Ladd raised his stick in acknowledgement.

Ladd's "welcome home," as teammate Patrick Kane called it, was capped with his 20th goal of the season — his third in nine games since joining his new club and the third of the night in his Blackhawks' 4-0 blanking of the Jets — followed by a peculiar and delayed response by Jets fans when they realized their former hero scored in their rink once again.

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"I always appreciated the fans and really the people of Winnipeg when I was here," said Ladd of his reception from the sold-out crowd of 15,294. "I appreciate the ovations and I really can't say enough about the city."

"It was different off the hop," added Ladd. "It's a weird feeling looking across and seeing a lot of friends and being back in this rink on the other side. But as the game went on it kind of got more into just playing hockey. A big two points for us. It's nice to get back into the win column."

Ladd, who led the Jets in scoring twice in his four-plus seasons in Winnipeg, has been paired with Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews near consistently since re-joining the club where he won his second Stanley Cup in 2010. He has three goals and five points since being acquired by the Blackhawks on Feb. 25.

"(He's) comparable. He's on the puck. His quickness. He goes to the net. Good forechecker. Good along the wall. Good in tight areas," said Joel Quenneville, listing off Ladd's qualities, having now coached him in Chicago twice. "A competitive guy. That's what we had when we had him before, and I think he improved along the way here in Winnipeg. And we'll get the experience with him at this stage."

[MORE: Blackhawks get back on track with shutout win over Jets]

"He was such a well-liked guy in the room. They'll be happy for him," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "Other than (Dustin) Byfuglien saying he might take a run at him, everyone's happy to see Andrew." 

But there were no crushing blows from a 260-pound blueliner — as Byfuglien joked pre-game, and no bloody noses via the elbow of Andrew Ladd, as his former teammate spit back.

Ladd just went to work, as he always has, and scored a goal in the rink where he has many times before since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated in the summer of 2011.

"That was awesome," added Kane of Ladd's goal Friday. "From the outside, he looked like he was ready to go tonight. He had a jump in his step and it was pretty cool the way the fans treated him. I thought that was awesome."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.