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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks a playoff team even with Corey Crawford?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks a playoff team even with Corey Crawford?

Seth Gruen and US99’s Stylz & Roman join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.  Joel Quenneville says he expects and hopes Corey Crawford can return this season?  Will he come back?  And are they a playoff team even if Crawford returns?

Plus the Bulls extend Zach LaVine’s minutes, a preview of Sunday’s championship game and will Jake Arrieta eventually end up back with the Cubs?

Good news and bad news on injury status of Corey Crawford

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USA TODAY

Good news and bad news on injury status of Corey Crawford

There's good news and bad news surrounding Corey Crawford's injury status as the Blackhawks returned to practice on Friday from their league-mandated bye week.

The good news is, Joel Quenneville remained confident that his star goaltender will return at some point this season. The bad news is, "we haven't seen much progress" even though Quenneville reiterated "we expect him to be fine" in the long run.

The latter is relatively concerning given it's been nearly a month since Crawford was last seen on the ice in a game setting or in any fashion, but it's certainly a positive sign that the Blackhawks haven't wavered on their expectation that he'll return this season after reports surfaced over the week that there was growing concern he wouldn't due to vertigo-like symptoms.

Here's what we know, via Quenneville: Crawford is recovering in Chicago and has remained in communication with the medical doctors, who are monitoring his progress. His workouts "haven't been much," and "we'll get a better idea when he starts working out and how close he can be to being on the ice" when that does happen.

Quenneville also said "I don't think there was a defining blow" when Crawford suffered the injury, which adds to the uncertainty on the timeframe for Crawford's potential return.

Asked whether or not long-term injured reserve is a possibility, Quenneville responded: "I don't think that's a need for us right now, so I think that's not part of the discussion." Putting Crawford on LTIR would open up significant cap space, but it would also require him to be out for a minimum of 10 games or 24 days and the Blackhawks aren't prepared to put a restriction on his possible return date.

What they are prepared to do is keep rolling with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass down the stretch while Crawford continues to recover, and Quenneville was very confident in the duo.

"Our goaltending, all year, has given us a chance to win every single game," Quenneville said. "This year it’s probably been the reason we’re still in the playoff hunt. They’ve done a good job without [Crawford]." 

But it appears it'll be a committee approach for the time being.

"If you have an opportunity to keep the net, it’s where it’s been," Quenneville said. "They’ve both been comparably competitive and both been fine. It’s been an easy decision, keep the net when you’re going well. Whether it becomes one guy’s net will be determined."

Other notes:

— Artem Anisimov (lower body) was a full participant in practice, but has been ruled out for Saturday's game against the New York Islanders. He said he feels "100 percent" healthy but is trying to get caught up on conditioning. Quenneville is hopeful he'll be ready to go Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

— Erik Gustafsson was skating on a pairing with Brent Seabrook, and also was on the second power play unit. All indications point to the 25-year-old defenseman making his season debut Saturday. "Good option, good opportunity," Quenneville said. "We’re not for sure but certainly he’s been around, he’s eager to go. I look forward to seeing what he can do."