Blackhawks acquire Oduya; deal Scott


Blackhawks acquire Oduya; deal Scott

The Blackhawks have been struggling defensively all season. And in the aftermath of the Brian Campbell trade, the onus of his work was put on rookies or guys not far removed from that status.

In acquiring Johnny Oduya today, the Blackhawks hope to alleviate that.

The Blackhawks got Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a second- and third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The move filled general manager Stan Bowmans desire to get a defenseman, and gave the Blackhawks another veteran presence back there.

His style fits in with what we do here in terms of ability to skate, Bowman said. Hes one of the better skating defensemen in the NHL. Hes got a lot of experience, hes played on good teams and hes played a lot of minutes. With our team right now hell be a nice, calming influence on some of our players.

For the 30-year-old Oduya, who spoke via conference call on Monday afternoon, its another opportunity.

Theres excitement, for sure, said Oduya, who will be at Blackhawks practice Tuesday and is expected to play Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Any time youre in a position where youre battling for a whole year, you obviously dont want to leave your teammates or friends behind. But theres an excitement getting to Chicago. Its a really good team and a great place to play.

Oduya has played more penalty kill than power play and said he isnt afraid to block shots he has 98 of those so far this season. Oduya is also a puck-moving defenseman. No, hes not Campbell. But hes more used to playing that style of game, while youngsters like Nick Leddy and Dylan Olsen were thrown into that work with little experience at it this season.

Weve got some young guys -- Leddys just got 100 games under his belt and Dylans come in and played as well. But we could use that experience, Bowman said of Oduya. The way he can skate with the puck and make plays, I think he can eat up important minutes with our defense. Its a crucial time for our team, but solidifying that back end is something weve talked about for a long time. He brings a lot to the mix.

The Blackhawks defensive corps got a lot younger when Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador went out with their injuries. Both Leddy and Olsen have promise, but heaping so much on their shoulders at such a young age could hinder more than help. Will Oduya help the Blackhawks defense right the ship? Is he enough? The Blackhawks have a tough final stretch looming. Theyre hoping this gives them a little more security along the blue line.

In terms of where hell fit I dont know, Bowman said. But I expect him to eat up a lot of the minutes that are being spread around right now.

Rookies finding their way with Blackhawks

Rookies finding their way with Blackhawks

Since joining the Blackhawks, Tyler Motte’s been all over the place in the lineup: third line, second line, top line and back to the third line.

For the rookie, that’s no problem.

“They keep you on your toes, keeps the guys loose. No one gets too comfortable in their spot,” Motte said of the line changes. “Especially me, as a young guy, I like that. coming in every day, you may get a little different taste. Keeps you on your toes, keeps you working hard.”

No, this is not a story about line changes — we’ve had plenty of those and there will likely be more in the future. This story is about how the rookies are handling things in this very early season, be it taking on responsibility handling the ups and downs and working through those line changes.

For the most part, the young forwards and defensemen have done all right. Michal Kempny has been solid, and should be back in the lineup Friday night when the Blackhawks face the New Jersey Devils. Gustav Forsling was doing fine prior to suffering an upper-body injury against Calgary on Monday night. He’s out against the Devils but could be back on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

As for the forwards, Motte, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman have been in the lineup for most or all of these early games. Be it the higher level of play or the speed, they’re adjusting as they go.

“I just think obviously the first couple of games you’re nervous. Playing against the best players in the world, it’s definitely a big step. But as the games go on you get a better feel of what to do with the puck and you realize you have a little more time than you think when you have it,” Nick Schmaltz said recently. “I think I’m just slowing the game down and just trying to play my game. I feel more comfortable out there every shift, every game.”

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Growing pains are expected. Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s about how the young guys adapt to everything.

“With all of them, basically, we’re looking for consistency. That’s how their games are going to get better, because they do have some good attributes that have them here,” Quenneville said. “From there, let’s get to where they’re getting better, and that’s with the little things and with the pucks and that intensity that grows knowing that’s what this league’s all about. The guys who work harder come up with more pucks.”

Hartman already knew what to expect, given he made his NHL debut in February 2015. He certainly knew the physical requirements of the game immediately — just YouTube his big hit, on his first NHL shift, on former Devils forward Dainius Zubrus.

“You start to learn what to expect,” Hartman said. “If it’s a certain team you’re playing against you know how the game’s going to go. The speed of the game and the systems, too, are a big thing with Joel. After playing however many games I’ve played now, it all comes together.”

Every player, regardless of experience level, has to adjust and roll with changes, be it lines or responsibility. For the veterans, maybe it becomes a bit of old hat. For the rookies, they’re learning. And contributing. They’ll get there.

“Starting from the preseason the games were fast, physical. You get a little different taste, a little different strategy every night, depending on who you’re playing where you’re playing,” Motte said. “It’s been fast, it’s been intense. We’ve had some tight games which is all expected. There are no easy games in this league. You just have to go compete, do your best to win.”

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

PHOTOS: Blackhawks hit the road sporting Cubs attire

The Blackhawks hit the road on Thursday, and they did so in style.

In support of the Cubs participating in the World Series for the first time since 1945, each member of the Blackhawks sported a Cubs jersey and World Series hat as they hopped onto the plane and traveled to New Jersey.

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It may not have been as whacky as Joe Maddon's themed road trips, but it's still a perfect excuse for breaking the dress code just this once.

Check out the photos below: