Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien return to Chicago for 1st time

Three weeks after Patrick Kane's seeing-eye shot found its way past Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton to win the 2010 Stanley Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks, the purging of their roster began. Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien were barely into their summer of celebrating the Cup victory before they were dealt away to the Atlanta Thrashers.

Having your day with the Cup while you're rostered to a new team must be a bit of an odd feeling, but in Byfuglien's case, he made sure the Thrashers were part of his day.

But once Ladd and Byfuglien's days with the Cup were over, that was the end of their celebrating. They weren't in attendance at the ceremony to receive their Cup rings, nor were they in the house at United Center for the home opener when the championship banner was raised.

On Thursday night, the Winnipeg Jets visit the Blackhawks, and it'll be the first time the pair will be on United Center ice since Game 5 of the 2010 Final.

With a hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks, a five-game goal scoring streak and three goals and five points in the final two games against the Flyers, "Big Buff" became a Windy City legend during that playoff run.

Ladd was a serviceable member of the Blackhawks in his two full seasons in Chicago, but it was in Atlanta is where he emerged.

After being named the franchise's youngest captain last November, Ladd posted career numbers in goals (29) and points (59) on the way to a fat 5-year, $22 million extension over the summer. That was just three weeks after he visited Winnipeg for the first time and met with the media. Through the transition of the franchise, Ladd embraced the role of captain in a time when many were wondering about the player attitudes towards living in Winnipeg.

In a different sort of reunion tonight, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will be facing off with the team -- well, the name of the team -- he grew up cheering for.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

"I think it's pretty awesome," he said. "I don't really know what people are thinking about that jersey and logo in Winnipeg, whether they like it or not, but all those things have fallen into place with them renaming them the Jets. I think they did a great job. It's not my team, but as an outsider looking in, it's pretty cool to see that tradition restored."

Toews said he's already received messages from friends telling him that they'll be rooting against him for this one night.

If it were up to us, these Jets/Blackhawks meetings would have more than just two points on the line, especially with the Chicago captain involved. As we see every year with college football rivalries, like when the Paul Bunyan Trophy goes to the winner of Michigan and Michigan State, we'd like to see the naming rights to lovely Lake Jonathan Toews in Manitoba put on the line.

Photo credit: Canadian Press