Detroit — Defenseman Nick Leddy sounded as if he wanted to push the clock closer to game time.
Talking after Saturday’s morning skate, Leddy couldn’t wait to face his old teammates on the New York Islanders and the puck drop at 7 p.m.
“A lot of excitement,” said Leddy, who spent the last seven seasons with the Islanders before a July trade brought him to the Red Wings (in exchange for forward RIchard Panik and a second-round draft choice).
“For me personally, I’ve played with most of those guys for north of five years. The long playoff runs, some of the tougher years (the Islanders had), and then some of the great years we had together. All those memories and bonds are huge.
“A lot of excitement. (There will) probably have a little nerves out there. I’ve always had great times playing against friends. It’ll be even better playing against some real good friends.”
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The strange thing heading into Saturday night is where each team currently sits in the standings, and how, respectively, the seasons have gone.
The Wings are 12-9-3 and have won their last four games. As the schedule curls into December, the Wings have been one of the surprise stories in the NHL.
The Islanders have been too – but for opposite reasons.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Islanders were a dismal 5-10-3. But there are likely reasons for the rough start out of the gate.
First, because finishing touches were still being put on their new arena, the Islanders opened the season with a staggering 13-game road trip. Then, combined with some injuries that cut into depth, the Islanders were hit with a COVID-19 spread, which knocked as many as eight regulars out of the lineup.
The Islanders had two games postponed to a later date, and just returned to the ice Thursday, losing 2-1 in overtime to San Jose.
Leddy feels the difficult start might only make the Islanders stronger in the long run.
“That’s a special group in there and they know how to win, they’ve shown it over the past number of years,” Leddy said. “With the COVID stretch, and playing on the road to start the season, those are not easy experiences for them.
“It’ll only make that team stronger and grow as a team. They’re still a very good team. They’ve gone to the Eastern Conference Finals the last two years. It’s not a team you want to take lightly.”
Leddy, 30, has been an ideal addition to the Wings’ defense, providing offense and a veteran calmness the organization envisioned.
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Leddy has yet to score a goal but has seven assists in 24 games, with a minus-8 rating. Leddy was paired with rookie Moritz Seider to begin the season, and lately with Filip Hronek.
“First off, he’s a good player, and good players are valuable as you try to push yourself up the standings,” said coach Jeff Blashill, talking about Leddy’s contributions. “I would also say in Nick’s case, his experience throughout his career including the last couple of years where they’ve been a real good hockey team, can bring lots of value to our team.
“And he’s done a good job imparting that wisdom in his own way. He’s not a big talker, he’s a quiet person, but he’s a confident person and he’s not afraid to say what he believes in and what it takes to win.
“He’s done a good job as kind of a Papa Bear to our younger defensemen, similar to (Marc) Staal and (Danny) DeKeyer. We’ve been real fortunate in what Leds has brought in different ways to help us be a better hockey team.”
Leddy was able to have dinner Friday with some of his former teammates.
“It was great to catch up,” Leddy said. “With all the stuff they’ve been going through, it was great to see them, and healthy. Being there for seven years and getting to really know those guys, it was special moments.”
But it’s safe to say Leddy is enjoying the current time with his new team, as the Wings learn to become a similarly contending team.
“We’ve had great goaltending, they’ve come up huge for us in the times we’ve needed them, and we’re really starting to figure out how to win,” Leddy said. “There may be some times and some stretches in the game where we’re not playing our best, but we’re competing and working hard and finding ways to win.”
Happy Birthday, Alex
Former Wings legend Alex Delvecchio celebrated his 90th birthday Saturday,
Delvecchio played 24 seasons, with all the Wings, and had 1,281 points (456 goals, 825 assists) in 1,550 games played.
He was also a three-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player.
“One of the real bonuses of this job is getting to meet real special people, and Alex being included in that,” Blashill said. “His playing career speaks for itself, but he’s a real gentleman and I’ve enjoyed the little time I’ve spent with him.”