Blackhawks excited to be reunited with Andrew Ladd


Blackhawks excited to be reunited with Andrew Ladd

Duncan Keith has remained good friends with Andrew Ladd since their first go-around as teammates.

The two have places near each other in British Columbia and train together.

“He’s one of my best friends in hockey,” Keith said late Thursday night.

So Keith is naturally happy to see his best friend as a teammate again after the Blackhawks acquired Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets. The players found out the team traded for Ladd when it was announced on the video board during the first period. For Keith, it was welcome news.

“It’s a huge acquisition for us,” Keith said. “He brings so many things to the table. On top of what he can bring on the ice there are so many things off the ice he’ll bring to our team in the locker room: that leadership and experience. He’s a guy who basically plays any position or any situation. The biggest thing he brings is that hunger to win, and the ability to play in those tough playoff games.”

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Whenever Ladd does get here, he’ll start with two familiar teammates: Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, as the Blackhawks may have finally solved their top-line, left-wing issue.

“You know what Andrew Ladd’s intention is coming here,” Toews said. “You know what he wants to accomplish and a lot of the guys do know what type of person and player he is. So that transition will be as easy as possible. We’re looking forward to it.”

Yes, unlike some of the Blackhawks’ recent trade-deadline acquisitions, there will be no adjustment period. At least there shouldn’t be. Ladd spent three previous seasons with the Blackhawks, during which time he got acquainted with Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and eventually Marian Hossa.

“He’s got some real close friends on our team. That can alleviate things quickly, knowing he’s been here, he’s won with this group and is close friends with some of the guys,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’ll be welcome with open arms and opportunity’s going to be great. He’s a great addition at this time of the year, for us and for him. The transition should be relatively seamless.”

[MORE: Blackhawks acquire Andrew Ladd from Winnipeg in blockbuster deal]

For Ladd, he’s getting back with teammates who are a few years older, who have honed their games and have learned how to win in the postseason – a couple of times.

“They know how to play the right way,” Ladd said. “Their ability to have such a big impact and big games, they always have big moments at crucial times and that’s what’s made them great. Anyone’s excited to be a part of that again. It’s a treat to watch some of those guys play. You have such a great appreciation for what they do day in, day out, when you play with them each and every day. I’m excited to see them again.”

The Blackhawks are happy to see Ladd again, too. They’ve had a good season thus far; bringing back a familiar player could make it that much better.

“We keep in touch throughout the year, so it’s something we talked about, the potential of that happening,” Keith said of Ladd returning. “We’re all excited to have him.”

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut


Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.