Blackhawks

Blackhawks breakdown: Johnny Oduya

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Blackhawks breakdown: Johnny Oduya

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

After joining the Blackhawks from the Winnipeg Jets in a trade deadline deal on Feb. 27, Johnny Oduya played in 18 games and scored one goal with four assists and a plus-3 rating. He was credited with 11 hits and 42 blocked shots in the regular season. In the six playoff games vs. Phoenix, Oduya picked up three assists and finished plus-1. He was credited with 10 hits and 10 blocked shots in the series.

Boden's take: Oduya was this years Chris Campoli. General manager Stan Bowman talked of adding defensive help at the trade deadline, and he did it for the second straight year. Oduyas impact was immediate (after Toronto scored on his first Blackhawks shift), as he moved the puck, blocked some shots, and added a handful of points after his acquisition from Winnipeg. He also made Nick Leddy better. An argument could be made that his addition was the biggest key for how well the team played down the stretch to secure a playoff spot. But his impact lessened as time went on, and he struggled during the playoff series against Phoenix -- not that he was the only one.

Myers' take: When the Blackhawks picked up the former Jets defenseman at the deadline, it was met with some skepticism. But it didn't take long to see that Oduya was a good fit with this group. Oduya helped balance out a defense that sorely needed it, adding a veteran touch and taking the weight off the young defensemen's (Leddy and Dylan Olsen) shoulders. Duncan Keith spoke highly of him all season. So did Patrick Kane, who loved the long out passes that Oduya was able to throw his way. Alas, as good as Oduya was during the regular-season stretch run, he was that invisible during the postseason.

2012-13 Expectations

Boden: It would be nice to have Oduya back, but not at the price tag he carried in 2011-12 (3.5 million) as he enters unrestricted free agency. This team has only about 6 million to spend under the existing salary cap, which might shrink. On top of that, his game is a lot like the existing defensive corps (outside of Brent Seabrook) and the Hawks already have some hefty financial commitments beyond the top pair (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador). Unless one of those two isnt back, you know how I believe the Hawks should invest -- or swap for -- on the back end if youve read any of these other individual defensive assessments (size and toughness). Thats also counting upon Leddy to be a more consistent, improved puck-mover as well.

Myers: Much like last season, when they got Campoli at the deadline, the Blackhawks will probably look to sign Oduya to another deal. At least that's what Bowman said at the season-ending media day. Oduya will come at a higher price than Campoli would have after earning 3.5 million last season. He did bring good balance, and the Blackhawks need that again next season. But if the Hawks get to the postseason, Oduya has to be more noticeable.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Oduya above.

Up next: Bryan Bickell

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.