Bears

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

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

When the Bears announced their 2019 schedule, we decided to have some puppies reveal the opponents. Now, we have taken it a step further. We have a puppy that will make weekly picks for the Bears games.

It is Week 7!

Walter's choices in Week 7 are a chance to go to Mardi Gras or a celebration of St. Patrick's day in Chicago. Bears fans should be excited about his decision in Week 7... and now we're all looking forward to St. Patrick's Day again!

The 12-week old dachshund was hand-selected by the scouts at NBC Sports Chicago and hails from One Tail at a Time rescue. He came from a shelter in Alabama and was transported to Chicago.  At just 7 weeks old and without his mom, he beat a deadly virus and spent some time in the doggie ER, where he healed and became strong again. 

Now, Walter is ready to rumble between the well-manicured lines of Sweetness Field. He is NOW adoptable via onetail.org and has two adorable sisters named Martha and Millie, who are already adopted. 

Walter will pick the games throughout the NFL season, including the playoffs and we hope that his nose follows the scent to the Bears every week, all the way to that magical game in Miami in February. Narrated by Jason Benetti, play-by-play announcer for the White Sox.  

It is time for Puppy Pick ‘Em presented by Nissan.

To learn more: www.onetail.org

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

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Detroit Red Wings

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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