Blackhawks

Oduya 'makes plays forwards can dream of'

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Oduya 'makes plays forwards can dream of'

Patrick Kane was talking about the Blackhawks defense against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night when the compliment to its newest member came.

This (Johnny) Oduya can make plays that forwards can dream of, Kane said. Coming up the ice with speed, he jumps in; he seems to be real smooth and fits in perfect with our team. Hes another guy who can jump in the play. Its nice to have a guy like that; it adds a little more balance with our D.

Yes, its only been two games for Oduya, but the Blackhawks are appreciating what hes bringing. Oduya has provided speed, veteran presence and solid minutes for a Blackhawks team that needed it.

Its huge. It showed last night in all the things he can do defensively and in getting the puck to our offensive players hands, said Duncan Keith. Hes got good skill. Hes been around, hes smart and he can help us a bunch of different ways.

Taking up minutes was a big part of that; Oduya played nearly 20 against Toronto and over 22 against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. Oduyas had to adjust quickly from his time with the Jets.

We were more of a checking group (in Winnipeg), not much skill up front, obviously. And this is a more skilled team where, for me, I can try to get into plays more, Oduya said. Its important to move the puck up quick to the forwards. They have a lot of speed to get open.

Hence Kanes adulation with Oduyas style, which seems to fit in more with the Blackhawks: speed, movement and show off that skill.

Hes got a lot of poise, patience to his game, said coach Joel Quenneville, who put Oduya with Nick Leddy and reunited Keith and Brent Seabrook during the Toronto game. Hes got some reliability, predictability and steadiness. In two games we really like the addition. You looked at our needs (at the deadline), we talked about this and that; defenseman was something we could use and hes fit in perfectly.

Oduya will keep learning. Right now hes sharing quality minutes with his fellow veteran defensemen and taking the pressure off some of those guys. Its only two games, but its been a good start.

Its a little bit different style of game, more possession than checking maybe, I knew it would take some getting used to but I feel pretty comfortable, Oduya said. As long as we keep winning games Im happy.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.