It didn’t take long for Johnny Oduya to figure out Chicago was the place he wanted to be.
So when the Blackhawks offered him a three-year contract worth $10.15 million as a free agent last summer, the veteran defenseman jumped at the chance to stay.
“It feels like coming home again,” said Oduya, acquired from Winnipeg at the trade deadline last spring. “I felt right away this was a place I wanted to be.
“There are always a couple places you have in your mind, but as soon as I played here — coaching staff, organization, fans, the city — everything is what you ask for as a hockey player.
“There was no need to try and look somewhere else. If a team like this wants you to be on their roster that’s something you appreciate and I’m happy to be here.”
Oduya credits his teammates with making him feel welcome.
“It depends on the team,” Oduya said. “This is the second time I’ve come to a new team in the middle of a season and it’s been a good experience. The guys have been very welcoming. That makes a huge difference.”
The Hawks got down to business on the power play Wednesday morning with a few new wrinkles.
The first unit looked similar to last year with the exception of Andrew Shaw in front of the net. There was Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa along the walls with Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith at the points.
The second unit consisted of Patrick Sharp and Nick Leddy at the points, Viktor Stalberg in front and Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane along the walls.
“I thought the way we worked on our special teams today, there was a real pace out there,” coach Joel Quenneville said following the workout.
“We liked the movement. They got a chance to move it around with one another. I thought we were establishing point shots and a net front presence. Puck retrieval was noticeable.
“I think the guys felt the urgency you need on the power play. There was balance on both units.”
Sharp said there is a good competition taking place to play on the power play along with a new vision from assistant coach Jamie Kompon.
“You look at both units and there’s a lot of talent in this room, lots of guys that can play,” Sharp said. “So the guys that are on it need to be aware of that. We’ve got to work hard at it and we’ve got to be good at it because you can be replaced at any time.”
Joel Quenneville said time will tell which group is considered the first unit.
“Those groups will tell us who is No. 1,” Quenneville said.
The coaching staff tried to simulate everything about a real game down to having the players wear suits to the United Center for Wednesday night’s controlled scrimmage, won by the Red team (mostly Hawks) 3-2 over White (mostly Rockford).
“We want to make it feel like we’re in that mode,” Joel Quenneville said.
“They wanted us to do everything, show up for the morning skate, come to the game in a suit and tie, just to get that game feel back,” Patrick Kane said. “You want to take it as an exhibition game to get us ready for Saturday.”
Red rallied from a 2-0 deficit on goals by Kane, Jonathan Toews (on a power play) and Bryan Bickell.
When you kill penalties as poorly as the Hawks did last season a coach like Joel Quenneville comes to rely on his top players, sometimes too much.
Quenneville admitted he will be watching closely the minutes Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook spend killing penalties.
“Forwards get two or three rotations sometimes on the PK and if we’ve got our top guys maybe just giving them one roll of the rotation, whether it’s 30 seconds, or 20 is ideal,” said Quenneville. “Cutting those guys back, giving them one rotation is something we’re looking at.”
Marcus Kruger returned to the ice Wednesday after missing two days with the flu. … Injured defenseman Steve Montador was at the UC on Wednesday but is not able to practice. … Kruger scored a goal for White as did Jimmy Hayes.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.