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updated: 3/14/2012 7:18 PM

Hawks' Olsen successfully flying under the radar

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  • The Blackhawks' Dylan Olsen gets an elbow to the face from the Dallas Stars' Eric Nystrom while battling for the puck earlier this season.

      The Blackhawks' Dylan Olsen gets an elbow to the face from the Dallas Stars' Eric Nystrom while battling for the puck earlier this season.
    Associated Press

 
 

Like an offensive lineman in football, an NHL defenseman who doesn't get much notice is usually doing a pretty good job.

Rookie Dylan Olsen hasn't gotten much notice lately.

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Sure, maybe it's because he's surrounded by veterans like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and recently-acquired Johnny Oduya.

Or maybe it's because Olsen, the Hawks first-round pick in the 2009 draft (28th overall) is quietly working his way toward becoming a solid NHL defenseman.

"I feel like I'm getting more confident as we go along here," said Olsen, 21, who will play in his 20th NHL game Friday when the Hawks travel to Dallas to take on the Stars.

He's getting a lot of help along the way.

"Duncs, (Sean) O'Donnell, Seabrook -- they're all great guys and great veteran leaders," Olsen said. "They've been looking out for me."

And it's paid off for a defensive unit that has stabilized with the arrival of Oduya.

"Lately we've been playing real well defensively and playing a team game that's been working," Olsen said. "If you look at the players we have and the experience we have, it's a great defensive core.

"Everyone does their job and you don't have to go out of your way to do too much. It's been going well."

Prior to the Hawks acquiring Oduya, Olsen spent some time paired with Keith, and that duo impressed coach Joel Quenneville.

"I like his size, his presence out there," Quenneville said. "He has a nice shot, he's quick and strong in the puck areas and he's growing nicely with Duncs. It's been a nice pair."

Quenneville wasn't the only one who thought so.

"That stretch I played with Duncs, he helped me out a lot," Olsen said. "He's always talking to me, always helping me out in different situations. It was a confidence booster."

This is Olsen's second stint with the Hawks, his first being a two-gamer in early January. He was called up again Feb. 10, and has stuck ever since.

"He's a good kid, obviously very good defensively -- he's helped us out a lot," said defenseman Nick Leddy, still a kid himself. "He's also got a huge shot, a heavy shot, I'm sure once one of those gets in it'll open things up."

Olsen has yet to tickle the twine and has just 1 assist in 19 games, but it's his defense he's worried about these days as he soaks in the excitement of a playoff chase.

"Hopefully the oohs and aahs are out of the way and I can just focus on playing," he said. "It really hasn't sunk in yet. Every day is new. You just have to come in and work hard and try to get a spot in the lineup every night."

That hasn't been a problem.

"Yeah, so far," he said, "it's been great."

Hammer hurt:

Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who returned to the lineup Friday against the Rangers after missing a string of 13 out of 14 games due to concussion symptoms, wasn't able to finish Tuesday's game because of what Joel Quenneville termed an upper body injury.

mspellman@dailyherald.com

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