Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya fitting in just fine with Stars


Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya fitting in just fine with Stars

DALLAS – Moves can be tricky.

You’re being uprooted from familiar surroundings and, if you’re an athlete, from familiar teammates. For Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp, their latest moves led them to a team that is trying to return to past glory and feels it needed a few good pieces to add to their budding mix.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Sharp and Oduya have had a pretty smooth transition to the Dallas Stars, who are looking to get back to their Stanley Cup-competing days of the late 1990s and early 2000s. To that end the Stars have gotten off to a great start this season, leading the Central Division with 52 points. And their two newest members have been big parts of the success. Sharp entered Tuesday’s game against the Blackhawks with 11 goals – just five fewer than he had all last season – and 14 assists. Oduya has four goals and eight assists and is a plus-13.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

The two felt like a part of their latest team immediately.

“It’s a fun group to be added to,” Sharp said. “You can tell these guys really care about each other in the room, they’ve been together for a number of years, came up through the minor-league system together and it’s a fun locker room to be a part of. Training camp was good. It’s always nice, I feel, to switch teams in the offseason because you have that training camp to build chemistry with each other. So far so good.”

Oduya agreed, saying the Blackhawks and Stars having so much in common helped.

“It was as seamless of a transition you can get. I felt very comfortable, very at home,” Oduya said. “[There are] a lot of similarities, and the idea of playing fast-paced hockey and there are obviously a lot of skilled players. It’s just a fun way to approach the way you’re playing hockey.”

The Stars already had plenty of offense in their game. They needed to bolster their defense – the Stars allowed an average of more than three goals a game last season. That’s where Oduya has helped, and he said it was also everyone buying into playing as well without the puck as with it.

[RELATED: Blackhawks prep to see Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Stars]

“I think we talked about it early on, just the commitment,” he said. “Defense is a team effort and a team awareness, where you have to be responsible. It’s not just when the other team gets the puck but when you get the puck, too, to make the right plays, late in games, whatever it might be, blocking shots, or taking away some plays or whatever you have to do to win. The awareness has been there, we’ve been working on it every day.”

The Stars got Sharp and Oduya because of their championship pedigree. At first the two were more concerned with just fitting into the Stars’ room. Now, however, their leadership is more audible. It’s one more way they’ve transitioned to their new team just fine.

“As the season’s going on both of us are being more vocal in what we feel can help the team on and off the ice,” Sharp said. “We’re not taking credit for anything. It’s a good group and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: