Familiarity doesn’t guarantee instant success for Johnny Oduya

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Johnny Oduya hasn’t played in a Blackhawks uniform since Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. (Sun-Times File Photo)

The easy narrative is that Johnny Oduya will slip right into his old spot alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson, instantly readjust to the Blackhawks’ system that he knows so well, and immediately be comfortable and confident for the playoff push.

But it’s not that simple. Just ask Brian Campbell, who went through a similar process at the start of the season, returning to the Hawks after five seasons in Florida.

“You get a lot of bad habits playing somewhere else, or just habits they don’t want here,” Campbell said. “It took me a while. I want to say maybe 20 or 30 games, even, until I wasn’t thinking anymore, and was just playing hockey. I don’t know the exact timetable where it all hit me and came back to me, but it definitely wasn’t a four- or five-game thing.”

Oduya’s situation isn’t exactly the same. He’s been gone only two years, not five. And he’ll be playing with his old partner, not bouncing around an unfamiliar lineup and switching from side to side as Campbell did. A week off to make the transition and get a few practices in should help, too. Oduya was acquired last Tuesday, but will make his 2017 Hawks debut Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

“To get a couple of skates in with the fellas, trying to get myself ready and go through some things for systems and reminders and stuff like that, it’s a plus,” Oduya said. “Every [team] is trying to accomplish the same things, but have different ideas how to do it. It’s a little bit easier for me, because obviously I’ve been around here before. You get back into it maybe a little quicker and you know if you apply yourself, you have the ability to do it. For me, it’s just a matter of putting in the work and being ready to play.”

Joel Quenneville doesn’t plan on easing Oduya back in. The 35-year-old veteran will play significant minutes with Hjalmarsson right away, and they’ll be killing penalties together, too. Quenneville said he’ll keep an eye on how Oduya’s doing, but with 17 games in 31 days to close out the season, Quenneville’s hoping it all comes back to him right away.

“It’d be nice if they can recapture it quickly,” Quenneville said.

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