Blackhawks bolster defense by reacquiring Johnny Oduya from Stars

Blackhawks bolster defense by reacquiring Johnny Oduya from Stars

A few days ago general manager Stan Bowman said he liked his defensive group, from what he had in Chicago to what was developing in Rockford.

But if the right move at the right price presented itself, Bowman said he’d consider it. On Tuesday the Blackhawks bolstered that defense after all, and with a familiar face.

The Blackhawks reacquired Johnny Oduya from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night in exchange for Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. Also, as first reported by Lebrun, the Stars will retain 50 percent of Oduya's salary. Oduya is in the final year of the two-year deal he signed with the Stars as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015.

The move brings Oduya back to Chicago, where he was part of the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup teams. It also adds a little more depth to a defense that has been stronger this season, but will be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for a few more games. The Blackhawks placed Hjalmarsson on injured reserve on Tuesday night (retroactive to Thursday). Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson will miss the next three games, hopeful the defenseman can return when the Blackhawks come off a four-day break.

In reacquiring Oduya, Bowman didn't give up much. TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that the conditional fourth-round pick could become a third-round pick in 2018, dependent on how much Oduya plays and how far the Blackhawks go into the postseason.

As for McNeill, he never broke through with the Blackhawks. A first-round draft pick (18th overall) in the 2011 NHL draft, McNeill played in just one game with the Blackhawks (last season, against the Carolina Hurricanes).

If there's any concern with Oduya it's how he is health-wise the rest of the way. The 35-year-old just returned from an ankle injury (one that was re-aggravated) that kept him sidelined for more than a month. Oduya, who had a goal and six assists in 37 games with the Stars this season, returned to Dallas lineup on Sunday vs. the Boston Bruins. But Stars general manager Jim Nill told the Dallas media that Oduya is fine.

"Health was an issue, but we had all the medical records and he's healthy now," Nill said following the deal. "He would have played [Tuesday] night if he wasn't getting traded, so that wasn't an issue."

As for how much talk there was with the Blackhawks regarding Oduya, Nill told the media, "they had him, won a Cup with him, they know what he brings, so they’re a team that was always talking to us."

When Oduya will join the team is uncertain at this time. The Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.