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Leddy trade big chance for 3 Hawks defensemen

Trio of Blackhawks defensemen vying for ice time.

The stall nearest the door in the Blackhawks' dressing room at their practice facility belonged to Nick Leddy the last couple of years.

On Sunday, Leddy's nameplate had been replaced by rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk's as the team moved on without a key member of the defense following Saturday's trade with the Islanders.

The question now is who will take Leddy's spot in the lineup when the Hawks start the season Thursday night in Dallas?

"There are some opportunities there," coach Joel Quenneville said following Sunday's practice at Johnny's IceHouse West. "The last few years we had seven or eight 'D' and we always had to sit out one guy with some experience. This year, there's going to be opportunities for some younger guys to play."

Those younger guys in line to claim the bulk of Leddy's 16 minutes, 22 seconds of ice time per game are David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey and van Riemsdyk.

For Rundblad, it could be the end of a waiting game that began when the Hawks acquired him from the Coyotes last March. The 23-year-old appeared in only five games down the stretch last season and did not dress during the playoffs.

"It's never fun not to play," Rundblad said. "I'm just going to try and work hard every day and hopefully I'll get a chance."

With Leddy departed, the time appears to be now and Rundblad wants to make the most of it.

"It's my last year on my contract, so it's a big year for me," he said. "I've been working hard the whole summer and I feel like the camp's been going pretty good for me too."

Rundblad was paired with Johnny Oduya during practice and appears to be in line to play a bigger role. Two others — Cumiskey and van Riemsdyk — are in a battle for roster spots and maybe have landed them when Quenneville said the team would carry eight defensemen on the 23-man roster to start the season. The situation is fluid with veteran Michal Rozsival sidelined with an upper-body injury that will likely keep him out against the Stars.

Cumiskey and van Riemsdyk were long shots to make the team entering camp, but the Hawks' need to shed salary to get under the salary cap forced a move and it came from the back end. With only a few days remaining before the season begins, both players are thrilled to still be with the Hawks.

"It was sad to see (Leddy) go, but maybe there's a little more opportunity," van Riemsdyk, 23, said. "I'm not really going to think about that. I'm just going to try to play my game and try to keep making a good impression and see where it goes.

"It's pretty cool to still be around. I know coming into camp I didn't really have too many expectations. I knew it would be a tough task to make the team or even be around this long, but it's worked out so far."

Van Riemsdyk was signed as a free agent after playing three seasons at the University of New Hampshire. He has impressed Quenneville with his reads, positioning and patience during exhibition games.

"It's pretty amazing from where he came into the organization that he has a good chance of starting against Dallas," Quenneville said.

At 27, Cumiskey is on the verge of making it back to the NHL after spending the last two seasons in Europe. He spent parts of five seasons with the Avalanche and has appeared in 132 NHL games.

"You've got to believe in yourself or else it will never happen," Cumiskey said. "You can't be overconfident at the same time. You've got to look at your situation and stay positive about it."

Heading down: Veterans Peter Regin and Michael Leighton cleared waivers and were assigned to Rockford of the AHL on Sunday.


Twitter @ChrisKuc

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