Blackhawks forming a line to praise new addition Johnny Oduya
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org March 3, 2012 8:32PM
Chicago Blackhawks v Ottawa Senators
at RED WINGS
The facts: 3, Ch. 9, 720-AM.
Updated: April 5, 2012 8:24AM
DETROIT — New Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya comes off as very laid-back. But don’t let that fool you.
There are reasons why forward Patrick Kane and coach Joel Quenneville commended Oduya for how much he’s meant to the Hawks in just two games, even though they weren’t asked about him after a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
‘‘He helps out in a lot of ways,’’ Quenneville said Saturday in Detroit, where the Hawks will meet the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon. ‘‘In two games, we really like the addition.’’
The Hawks had plenty of motivation for adding another defenseman: They sorely missed Brian Campbell’s puck-moving skills, others weren’t able to do what Quenneville wanted consistently, they were too reliant on 20-year-old Nick Leddy, and injuries decimated their depth.
But Oduya, 30, doesn’t feel additional pressure despite being general manager Stan Bowman’s only acquisition at the trade deadline, costing second- and third-round picks in 2013.
‘‘Everybody kind of knows what I’ve come in to do,’’ Oduya said. ‘‘I’m not here to change anything. I’m just here to try to add [some] depth. That’s pretty much how I see it.’’
But the compliments have poured in. Judging by what his new teammates are saying, Oduya might be the missing piece for a team that was leaning too much on Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Leddy to get their puck-possession style moving, among other things.
‘‘This Oduya could make plays that forwards could dream of coming up the ice with speed,’’ Kane said in Ottawa. ‘‘He just seems to be real smooth and fits in perfect with our team.’’
Oduya’s best offensive years came in New Jersey, where he spent parts of four seasons with the Devils when they were one of the better teams in the NHL at both ends. In Winnipeg, Oduya said, the Jets focused more on checking.
‘‘Obviously, this is a more skilled team,’’ Oduya said. ‘‘As a d-man, for me, I can try to get into plays more. It’s important to move the puck quick to the forwards. They have a lot of speed and get open pretty fast. It will take a bit to get used to it, but I feel pretty comfortable.’’
Keith called Oduya’s arrival ‘‘huge’’ for the balance he can bring the blue line. Oduya has taken 29 shifts each game and has seen time on the penalty kill.
‘‘He’s got good skills,’’ Keith said. ‘‘He’s been around, he’s smart, and he can help us a bunch of different ways.’’
Quenneville was tight-lipped about what he felt the Hawks needed before the deadline, but he didn’t hide his opinion Saturday.
‘‘You look at our needs and you can talk about this and that,’’ he said, ‘‘but I really felt a defenseman is something that we could use, and I think [Oduya] fit in perfectly.’’
Oduya’s start wasn’t ideal. He was on the ice for three goals by the Toronto Maple Leafs and went from being paired with Seabrook to being paired with Leddy after one period. But he recovered against the Leafs and made several standout plays in Ottawa, including a pass that sprung Patrick Sharp for a breakaway.
‘‘A goal there in the first shift is not really the start you want,’’ Oduya said. ‘‘You just try work through everything. I try not to worry about too many things. Sometimes it’s not going to go the way I want to, but that goes for me and everybody else.’’