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.

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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.”

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: