Hawks counting on vets Johnny Oduya, Brian Campbell to shore up D
The Hawks have relied on an infusion of rookies to stay in championship contention, but they were leaning on a couple of old pros to shore up their defensive corps heading into the playoffs.
With the additions of Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell, the Hawks have 13 Stanley Cups among their top six defensemen — providing depth the Hawks hope will take the pressure off three-time Cup champions Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
The difference in experience was noticeable from the start. The Hawks opened Game 1 against the Predators on Thursday with pairings of Keith and Hjalmarsson, Seabrook and Oduya, and Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
A year ago, with Keith suspended for the opener, the Hawks’ pairings in Game 1 against the Blues were van Riemsdyk and Hjalmarsson, Seabrook and Viktor Svedberg, and Michal Rozsival and Erik Gustafsson. Even when Keith returned, the Hawks still leaned on van Riemsdyk, Rozsival, Svedberg and David Rundblad to provide depth on the back end.
“We may have had three young guys playing last year or at least a couple of guys in some pretty important spots,” coach Joel Quenne-ville said. “This year, we have some guys who have played in those situations for us in the past. So that depth is going to be huge for us. We know the importance of the defense and how the depth is going to be important.”
Campbell won the Cup with the Hawks in 2010. Oduya won Cups in 2013 and 2015. Both were contributors to arguably the two biggest moments in the Hawks’ current run of Cups.
Campbell assisted on Patrick Kane’s Cup-winning goal in Game 6 against the Flyers in 2010. Oduya’s shot from the point led to Dave Bolland’s series-winning goal in Game 6 against the Bruins in 2013.
Darling ready . . . just in case
Backup goaltender Scott Darling was in a familiar position.
“My hope is that I don’t touch the ice and [Corey Crawford] has a great 16 wins,” Darling said. “But my job is to be ready just in case something happens and they need to put me in.”
Darling was the hero in Game 1 against the Predators in 2015, when he relieved Crawford after the Hawks fell behind 3-0 after one period and stopped 42 of 42 shots as the Hawks rallied for a 4-3 victory in double overtime.
“The biggest compliment I got was when Coach said that was the best relief performance he’s ever seen,” Darling said.
“For Joel Quenneville to say that — he’s seen a lot of hockey. A compliment like that coming from him meant a lot to me. It was a special game for me.”
Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist and five-time All-Star, but he has suffered first-round losses to the Hawks in 2010 and 2015.
“You always want to be remembered as a big-game player and a playoff player,” Rinne said. “We’ve gone to the second round a couple of times, but that’s it. As a team and organization, we really want to take that next step. We need to get over this hump and beat this team.”
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