Johnny Oduya returned to Chicago on Wednesday excited at what he repeatedly called his "second chance." Apparently, the feeling was mutual to some in the city.
"Coming into the airport, picking up my bag from the baggage claim there was a little note saying welcome back from the guys working there. Little things like that, it's very special," Oduya said. "As a player you feel very humbled and it's a fun thing."
Oduya met with the media on Wednesday afternoon, about 24 hours after the Blackhawks acquired him from the Dallas Stars for a fourth-round conditional pick in the 2018 NHL draft and Mark McNeill. For Oduya, who was part of the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championships here, the opportunity to go for another with a very familiar group of friends and teammates is enticing.
"It's always tough to leave a situation where we had in Dallas. Tough year, I think for everybody. You feel some of that disappointment," Oduya said of a Stars team that struggled with injuries and consistency this season. "But for me to get a second chance so to say for this year, obviously to come back here with a lot of players that I played with, [to] a city I know pretty good, I feel like I got a second chance, yeah, absolutely."
The Blackhawks, who talked prior to Oduya arriving on Wednesday, were as ready for a reunion as Oduya was.
"We love that guy," Corey Crawford said. "He works hard and you know he's a great teammate to have. He battles hard, blocks shots and can obviously do a lot for you offensively. We're excited to get him back."
Now to get back up to speed, be it with the Blackhawks' system or his individual game. Oduya re-aggravated an ankle injury in January and missed about a month. He returned to the Stars' lineup on Sunday, when he played what proved to be his final game of the season with them. Now Oduya said he feels good and, as he progresses here he doesn't foresee the ankle being an issue. He'll practice on Thursday and go from there.
Told coach Joel Quenneville would probably pair him with Niklas Hjalmarsson again, Oduya was on board with that.
"Hammer's probably the top defensive player league. Any chance you get to play with someone like that, I think that's a good thing," Oduya said. "You need to produce the results too. I don't think you want to live in whatever you think you've done before. I think all of us want to move forward. You want to get better. I want to know the guys in the room and kind of fuse into the group as much as I can even though I've been here before. It's going to be a little bit of a learning process, but I want it to be as quick as possible."
The Blackhawks went the reunion angle at last year's trade deadline, too, although the hope of Andrew Ladd helping the Blackhawks' playoff hopes didn't come to fruition. The Blackhawks, however, are in a different situation this season. They aren't relying on one player to come in and change things exponentially. They're looking for someone to bolster the depth they already have. Oduya should do that just fine.
"That's huge, especially this part of the year," Marian Hossa said of reacquiring Oduya. "you don't have to go through the system too much with him, just refresh some things. It's just nice to have a guy like that back."