Oduya a big plus for Hawks thus far

Defenseman Johnny Oduya continues to be one of the Blackhawks’ most important players.

Oduya, acquired at the trade deadline last season from Winnipeg for two draft picks, led all Hawks defensemen with a plus-10 rating prior to Thursday’s game at St. Louis to go with 7 assists.

“I think Johnny really surprised us for how well he has played and how consistent and predictable he is shift in and shift out,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “That pair has been very consistent for us with Hammer (Niklas Hjalmarsson) on the right side. That’s been a real nice tandem.”

Oduya helped the Hawks turn the season back around the right way after he came from the Jets.

“I came at a good time last year, the team was on the move up and we put together some good games,” Oduya said. “This year with the start, I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

This is the best Hjalmarsson has played since Brian Campbell was traded and he gives a lot of the credit to Oduya.

“Maybe his play brought out the best in me,” Oduya said. “Hopefully it’s a give and take. We try to help each other the best we can. It helps that we both speak Swedish on the ice and can communicate that way.

“He’s a tremendous player. He’s been around and has won so he knows what it takes. For me it’s nice to have that steady person beside you where you know what you’re going to get.”

What controversy?

As well as Ray Emery has played, Corey Crawford remains the Hawks’ No. 1 goalie. Crawford got the start Thursday against the Blues, but he got hurt in the first period and didn’t return for the second.

“No, I don’t think so,” Joel Quenneville said when asked if he had to make a decision on a No. 1 goalie soon. “As we go along here these guys are making it very easy on us to make a decision on whose playing net. No matter who you’re going to put in there, it’s the right decision. Game in and game out their consistency in net has been tremendous.

“Corey going into the season, we anticipated him getting a little more (of the starts) and now that he’s back playing we’ll see how that plays out. Ray has done everything he can do to get more (starts).

“I’m not worried about the playoffs now,” Quenneville said. “We’ve still got a long way to go before we get there and a lot of times those decisions are made for you by how things are going.”

Blues short-handed:

The Blues were without four injured regulars Thursday as they tried to end the Hawks’ record streak to start the season. The missing players were Andy McDonald, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jamie Langenbrunner.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has marveled at what the Hawks have been doing.

“Winning is a feeling. When you have the right feeling going, you win all the close games,” Hitchcock said. “You get the goal at the end, you win in overtime, you win in the shootouts. They got the feeling going right now and somebody is going to have to break the feeling.”

Images: Blackhawks vs. Blues

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