Defenseman Nick Leddy proving to be valuable mentor to young Red Wings

Detroit News

Detroit — Red Wings defenseman Nick Leddy remembers coming through the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization and soaking in the knowledge Duncan Keith would share.

“Looking up to Duncan Keith and all the stuff he’s taught me over the years,” Leddy said Friday. “It was an older team when I got to Chicago, and looking up to all those guys and learning from them was huge for me.”

Leddy, who the Wings acquired in the offseason from the New York Islanders, is now playing the role of mentor.

Paired with Moritz Seider, Leddy now is the sage veteran, passing along helpful hints and information.

“We all know how special a player he is,” Leddy said. “He’s got size, a ton of skill, a  good skater. He’s really good at making that first play.

“For me and him, it’s just talking out plays, communicating on and off the ice and creating that chemistry together so we know what each other is going to do in certain spots throughout the ice and the game.”

More: Niyo: Red Wings’ search for offense counting on second chances

Coach Jeff Blashill has several friends in the Islanders’ organization. His contacts gave Blashill glowing reports on Leddy, a long-time top-four defenseman.

Leddy is expected be a valuable part of the lineup this season.

“He’s all business,” Blashill said. “He’s a really good pro. I like that he comes from a team and an organization that does it right, so the habits are good.”

Bertuzzi, Larkin cleared

Blashill said forwards Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi have been cleared to play, and will likely be in the lineup soon.

Exactly when remains to be seen.

There is a chance both could play Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“We’d like to get those guys in a game here soon,” Blashill said.

Larkin suffered a neck injury late last season, while Bertuzzi is coming off back surgery. Both have been brought along gradually in training camp.

Forward Jonatan Berggren, who was injured during the prospects tournament, has begun practicing. He worked with the Grand Rapids Griffins’ group Friday. Blashill is hopeful Berggren will play at least one game this exhibition season.

“He’s moving toward being able to take contact,” Blashill said. “He said he’s feeling good so we’re hoping that he can move into the full practice. Then we’ll potentially try to get him into a game or two.”

Looking to rebound

Vladimir Namestnikov gave an honest assessment of last season.

Namestnikov had eight goals and nine assists in 53 games, a total of 17 points. That’s a far cry from the player who scored 17 goals the season before in Ottawa and Colorado.

“I could have produced more,” Namestnikov said. “It was kind of a down year personally. You can improve on everything. I had a good, hard summer and I’m looking to rebound this year. I worked hard on conditioning, getting stronger.

“Last year I wasn’t good enough in my view. I’m looking to rebound and have a stronger year.”

Namestnikov refused to blame the shortened season, or COVID-19.

“I wouldn’t blame it on the weird year,” Namestnikov said. “We were obviously all in the same situation. Sometimes you just aren’t happy with the way you play all season. I could have been way better.”

Blashill has put together a third line of Namestnikov, Michael Rasmussen and Adam Erne. The line was among the Wings’ best Wednesday in Chicago. Namestnikov is optimistic the group can be effective.

“It’s been good so far,” Namestnikov said. “We complement each other well. All three of us can skate and get on the forecheck, and grind out low down there.”

Split groups

The Wings split into their usual groups to work out Friday. One was more of an NHL-looking roster. The other had a more of a Griffins feel.

No final roster has been established, Blashill said. But he wanted “an NHL pace.”

“As I told (the non-NHL group), this competition is far from over,” Blashill said. “It isn’t over at all. This is one day, and we’ll get back to split groups as we move through the rest of the week.

“By next Friday, we’d like to know who our team is.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

Columbus Blue Jackets at Red Wings

►Faceoff: 7 p.m., Little Caesars Arena

►TV/radio: BSD-plus/No radio

►Outlook: The Red Wings open a stretch of three exhibition games in three days. … Columbus has a new coach in Brad Larsen, and is going through a revamp of its roster.

— Ted Kulfan

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