Crawford on Oduya: "It's great news -- we love that guy"

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Defenseman Johnny Oduya (27), who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win two Stanley Cup titles, was reacquired by the Hawks on Tuesday.

    Defenseman Johnny Oduya (27), who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win two Stanley Cup titles, was reacquired by the Hawks on Tuesday. Associated Press/2015 file

 
 
Updated 3/2/2017 8:46 AM

When Johnny Oduya arrived at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday, he made his way to baggage claim and found a note attached to his luggage.

The message, written by workers on a torn piece of paper said: "Welcome back!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Little things like that (make Chicago) very, very special," Oduya said before the Blackhawks played Pittsburgh at the United Center. "As a player you feel very humbled."

Oduya returns for a second go-round with the Hawks, having already won two Stanley Cups during his time here from 2012-15. On Tuesday, he was acquired by GM Stan Bowman for Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018.

"It's great news. We love that guy," said goalie Corey Crawford. "He works hard, he's a great teammate to have and we're excited to get him back."

The 35-year-old did not play against Pittsburgh and is coming off an ankle injury that cost him almost six weeks. Oduya, who did play in the Stars' game Sunday, said the ankle was not broken and that he expects to be 100 percent soon.

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"(Stars GM) Jim Nill was great about that," Bowman said. "He allowed our top doctor to talk to their doctor and their trainer so we're comfortable with that."

In Oduya, the Hawks not only bring in a player with 783 NHL games under his belt, but he's also a veteran of 102 playoff games -- 71 of which came with the Hawks. Oduya's strengths lie in being a stay-at-home defender who coach Joel Quenneville can deploy to help shut down any opposing line.

Bowman said Oduya's familiarity with the Hawks' system was a factor in making the trade, but there was more to it than that.

"You have to like what (a player) can do on the ice," Bowman said. "In Johnny's case, he's still playing at a high level. … He trains very, very hard.

"So, that was the one thing we thought of. As these guys get older, sometimes they aren't able to play at the (same) speed or pace ... but that's not the case for Johnny. He's playing just as well now as he did a couple years ago."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Quenneville said Oduya will likely play with Niklas Hjalmarsson once Hjalmarsson returns from his upper-body injury. It's also very possible that Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be the Hawks' top pairing.

"Well, that's great obviously. Something I didn't know," Oduya said. "Hammer's probably the top defensive player in the league, so any (time) you get a chance to play with someone like that, it's a good thing."

Oduya then quickly added that he's not here to sit back and reminisce about past glories with his former teammates.

"I don't think you want to live in the world where you've been thinking about what you've done before," Oduya said. "All of us want to move forward.

"We want to get better, I want to know the guys on the team and kind of (slide) 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 we want it to be as quick as possible."

The Hawks have now acquired Oduya twice at the trade deadline, the other time coming in 2012 when he came to them from Winnipeg.

"It's a little bit (of) a weird feeling, but a good one," Oduya said. "I feel I've got a second chance this season to have a good finish. So, yeah, I feel fortunate."

As do thousands of Blackhawks fans -- including a few at O'Hare -- who know that their stacked team has what it takes to claim yet another Stanley Cup title.

• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh

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