Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya return to Chicago with Stars
CHICAGO (AP) They formed a small circle in a hallway at the United Center. It was Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya with the Dallas Stars, and several players from the Chicago Blackhawks.
They talked. They smiled. It was just like old times, and completely different.
Sharp and Oduya played in Chicago on Saturday for the first time since they helped the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup title in six seasons in June. Each was glad it was only a preseason game in October.
”I’m not going to lie. It was pretty tough to play out there,” Sharp said after the Stars’ 4-0 loss, ”seeing the red jerseys and all the guys out there, but it’s something I have to deal with.”
The Blackhawks, managing a tricky situation with the salary cap, traded Sharp and defenseman Stephen Johns to the Stars on July 10 for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt. Oduya then joined Sharp in Dallas five days later, signing a $7.5 million, two-year contract in free agency.
Sharp played for Chicago for 10 years. Oduya was acquired by the Blackhawks in a 2012 trade with Winnipeg.
”It’s nice to come here,” Oduya said. ”It’s a big part of my career, obviously.”
The Stars also had Antti Niemi in goal, but he had been back to Chicago several times since he helped the Blackhawks win the title in 2010. This was a new experience for Sharp and Oduya, and there was a loud round of applause from the crowd of 21,221 when they were announced with the starting lineup.
”A lot of emotions going out there,” Sharp said. ”I know it’s just a preseason game, but it’s kind of neat to be back in the United Center. Some pretty special things happened here for me.”
Sharp made his NHL debut with Philadelphia in 2002, but he developed into a high-scoring winger in Chicago. The Blackhawks’ 2005 trade for Sharp marked a key turning point in their rise to the top of the league.
They stopped a five-year postseason drought when they made the playoffs in 2009. They ended another drought in 2010, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years.
Sharp slipped to 16 goals and 27 assists in 68 games in his final season with Chicago, which likely played a role in his departure. Now he is hoping to lead another renaissance in Dallas, which hasn’t won a playoff series since 2008.
”It’s been going good,” said Sharp, who turns 34 in December. ”They’ve done a great job of welcoming my family and myself. We’re all moved in, ready to start the season. Feeling good about hockey. Feeling good about life away from the rink and ready to go.”
Oduya, 34, also played some of his best hockey with Chicago. He was one of four defensemen who handled the bulk of the ice time in this year’s playoffs, and the Blackhawks allowed just 10 goals in the final series against the Lightning.
Dallas gave up 257 goals last season, tied with Toronto for fourth most in the league, so Oduya’s contract might be even more important for the Stars than the trade for Sharp.
”It’s fun where you’re in a new position,” Oduya said. ”You feel you’re kind of starting over. You want to learn.”
No one appeared to be having much fun in the preseason finale for each team. While the core of the Blackhawks has watched several key contributors depart over the years, it was clear that the return of Sharp and Oduya in green and white uniforms was a bit jarring.
”We know it’s part of the business,” Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa said, ”and you know it’s tough to see.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap