WINNIPEG — Andrew Ladd is looking forward to getting back something very important that he left behind in Winnipeg — his family.
When the Winnipeg Jets dealt their captain to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 25, Ladd's pregnant wife, Brandy, and their young son and daughter all remained in Manitoba.
After the Blackhawks completed their morning skate Friday prior to facing the Jets later that night, Ladd said his family would be returning to Chicago with him.
"They're actually coming (Saturday)," he said, adding his wife hasn't given birth yet. "That's been the toughest part, being away from them so it'll be nice to have them in Chicago."
Ladd is making his first appearance at the MTS Centre since being dealt and said it felt a "little weird" being on the visitors' side. But he's had no trouble adjusting to his new, yet familiar, team.
Ladd, 30, played two-plus seasons with Chicago, helping the Hawks win the 2010 Stanley Cup. He was then traded to the Atlanta Thrashers, which were sold and relocated to Winnipeg prior to the 2011-'12 NHL season.
"Knowing a lot of guys in the room makes it a lot easier, just to feel comfortable in the room," he said.
Ladd got together with some of his former Jets teammates Thursday night. That included forward Blake Wheeler, who admitted he's still adjusting to the loss of his friend and long-time linemate.
"It still feels like he's just hurt or something and we're expecting him back at any time," Wheeler said after Winnipeg's skate.
Of course, Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien joked that his on-ice welcome for Ladd may not exactly be cordial.
"I can't wait to shoot a puck at him and run him into the boards," said Byfuglien, a former Blackhawk who won the Cup with Ladd in 2010.
Ladd was quick to send his own warning to Byfuglien after hearing his friend's bold prediction.
"I already told him I've got an elbow coming for him if he's coming so he might end up with a bloody nose," Ladd said with a smile.
Ladd also has good friends with the Blackhawks, including fellow B.C. native Brent Seabrook, who was happy to bring Ladd back into the fold.
"I know him from when we were nine years old," Seabrook said. "It was a nice transition."
The veteran defenceman and Ladd live about 45 minutes away from each other during the summer in B.C.'s Okanagan region.
"We've both got young kids," Seabrook said. "The wives and us get everybody together and have some fun a couple times throughout the summer."
Ladd has played on a line with Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, a Winnipeg native. Although he's not wearing the 'C' with the Blackhawks, Ladd said he hasn't changed his approach to the game with his new squad.
"This team's got a lot of great leaders on it and I guess in some sense it takes some of the pressure off," Ladd said. "But at the same time, I think you still want to be yourself and bring your leadership qualities to the table when they're needed."
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press