Campbell providing calm presence for Hawks

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Campbell providing calm presence for Hawks

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011
4:50 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Statistics abound in hockey. Points, time on ice, hits, plus-minus, etc. Whatever the numbers, good or bad, players are usually judged by them.

And for Chicago Blackhawks Brian Campbell, one number shows hes doing pretty darn well.

Campbell is a plus-23 this season, including a plus-10 in his last seven games. Its a gaudy digit, for sure; Campbell was a plus-18 last year and had a career-best plus-28 with the Buffalo Sabres in 2006-07. Its a testament of how reliable and key Campbell has been.

Theres a reason why youre plus-23. Its pretty remarkable, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes out there against good players and playing big minutes. Its an indication that things are going pretty well.

Captain Jonathan Toews said the plus-minus is something that definitely shows how youre playing. Maybe you dont have all the points or goals but the plus-minus shows the effect you have on linemates and teammates. Maybe youre not always the first or second assist or not always scoring goals, but youre involved in the play.

Campells logged plenty of minutes this season and has played in every situation. Hes gotten comfortable with the Blackhawks these past few seasons and said hes learned plenty from Quenneville, a former defenseman himself.

There are a lot of just simple, easy things that he stresses: good stick positioning, good gap, just a lot of positioning in our own zone, when not to attack, staying in front of the net and not attacking plays that arent dangerous plays, Campbell said. Its been good. I feel really comfortable in his game plan right now.

Patrick Sharp said Campbells comfort level is evident.

Its as good as weve seen him play these last two years. Hes been very underrated for our team, Sharp said. Hopefully he continues to play like that for us.

Then theres Campbells partnership with Niklas Hjalmarsson. Campbell said hes been partners with the Swede longer than anyone else in his career, and the familiarity breeds results on the ice. Hjalmarsson, who was a minus-9 while Campbell was hurt and is a plus-8 now, noted his partners steady on-ice demeanor.

Hes very confident with the puck and always calm. That affects me. You know what youre going to get from him every night, Hjalmarsson said. He was good last season, too, but I dont know if Ive seen him play as good as he has this season. Hes been outstanding.
All-Star captains

Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Carolina forward Eric Staal were selected as All-Star Game captains on Tuesday. Jonathan Toews said last week he didnt expect to be selected as an All-Star captain and sounded relieved on Tuesday that he wouldnt have to be picking teammates.

Now we can joke with each other about who gets picked before the other guy, Toews said. I guess it couldve been fun, but Ill be more comfortable sitting on the outside. Theres no reason I want to take all that pressure right off the bat.

Patrick Sharp, meanwhile, said he thinks Staal could pick him.

Staals from my hometown (Thunder Bay, Ontario), so he better draft me. But I have a feeling hes going to make me wait it out, he said. Either way well be having fun with it.

Bears or Packers?

With the Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship this weekend, the Blackhawks were taking sides. The teams two Wisconsin natives, Jack Skille and Jake Dowell, were firmly in the Packers corner. Others were going with the Bears.

Thats funny, because all of a sudden they became huge Packers fans, Sharp said of Skille and Dowell. Thats fine. I know my boy Robbie Gould and the Bears are going to pull it out.

Toews said itll make for interesting viewing this Sunday.

Im sure everyones going to be glued to a TV somewhere taking it all in, he said. I wish those guys (Bears) the best. Itd be awesome to see another team here do what we did last year.

And Quennevilles take?

I love football. Lets go Bears.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya is headed to the Eastern Conference.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. The contract could be worth up to $1.25 million with incentives.

Oduya, who the Blackhawks re-acquired prior to the trade deadline last season from the Dallas Stars, finished with two goals and seven assists in 52 games between the two teams.

It comes to no one's surprise that the Blackhawks didn't re-sign the veteran defenseman.

After being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Nashville Predators, Stan Bowman has made it clear the Blackhawks are headed in a different direction, and their offseason has been plenty of busy so far. Headline deals included trading Oduya's linemate Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for 24-year-old defenseman Connor Murphy and re-acquiring Brandon Saad from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

Oduya heads to a Senators team which got ousted in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.