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Oduya eyes return to form

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Oduya looks to contribute offensively.
Johnny Oduya hopes the goal and assist he had in the last three games can get things going for him on the scoresheet.


A season ago, he finished second among Devils defensemen with 29 points on seven goals and 22 assists. But after going scoreless in his first 11 games this season, he suffered a lower body injury that sidelined him for the next 15.

He returned on Dec. 5 to score on an end-to-end rush against visiting Detroit, only to see the next 14 outings pass without a point.

He scored in Sunday's loss to the Kings by breaking in from the left point for a pass from Zach Parise. Oduya's centering feed from the left boards caromed past goaltender Jonathan Quick after deflecting off the skate of Los Angeles defenseman Jack Johnson.

"It always helps a little bit for your confidence," Oduya said Monday after practice. "I think it's trying to create the offense and jump into plays and find little openings. It's something we've been talking about and working on with the D group as a whole."

Though he's on pace for just six points in 67 games, Oduya's averaging over 20 minutes a night (21:12) on the club with an NHL-best 2.22 goals allowed per game.

"At times you're going to get the lucky bounce, and at times you won't. But for me and for us, it's playing defense first. The offense we want to bring is the kind that won't take away from the defensive game. It's a thin line."

The Devils entered Tuesday's meeting in Toronto looking to pull out of a slide that had seen them drop seven of 10. They opened with the best first half in team history, but have found that no team is immune to the occasional dip in play.

"All teams, at times, struggle a little bit. I think it's tough over 82 games to play exactly the same way," Oduya said.

He continued: "The feeling on the team, I don't think it's any different than before. We know we're a good team, but we also know we have to work hard and skate a lot to win games."

An Oduya revival could only help the Devils' fortunes heading into this month's Olympic break. One of six Devils players named to an Olympic roster, Oduya, a Stockholm native, will represent Team Sweden when the tournament gets underway on Feb. 16.

"He's been playing better, skating more, controlling the puck," said head coach Jacques Lemaire. "He makes things happen when he gets the puck. Getting points is a plus."

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