Friday, November 03, 2006

Oduya Growing In Confidence

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -Before training camp, Johnny Oduya was just another player who was trying to make an impression with the Devils. After a solid camp and preseason, the Swedish 25 year-old defenseman suddenly found himself not only on the roster but in the lineup for their opening night 4-0 win at Carolina October 6.

So far, he's suited up in every game and is a respectable plus-one for the season. After playing the last few years overseas back home, the former Capitals 2001 seventh round pick understands how much tougher it is now that he's finally in the NHL.

"The game is a bit different for sure," Oduya pointed out after falling to the Islanders 5-2 Thursday night. "It's faster and there's not as much time with the puck. Unlike Europe, there's skilled players on every team. But you got to be aware when you're on the ice so much more. Like if you make a mistake here, they score right away."

As the season has gone on, Devils coach Claude Julien has given the rookie more ice-time and responsibility, which has helped boost his confidence.

"It's always, especially for a defenseman to play more. It helps you get in the game faster and makes you more confident," he pointed out after logging 18:49 including 2:09 of power play time last night. "Even if you make a mistake, you got time to get it back. I'm happy for every minute I can get on the ice. Just try to play the game they want me to play. Pretty smart defensively and try to skate as much as I can."

With Brad Lukowich missing some time due to a bruised left foot, Oduya has even gotten a chance to play with Brian Rafalski. So far, it's gone well.

"Rafy is an All Star player and he's got a lot of experience and helps me out a lot," he remarked. "He knows when to make the plays and not to. It's great for me to learn from. I think it's pretty good now."

On a veteran-laiden team, it's helped Oduya feel more comfortable. He's especially eager to improve and help the club have success on the ice.

"For sure. Like the guys have been around. They know what it takes. That's the thing you want to learn as a newcomer. How to win. We had a tough one today and had a couple of tough ones before. I think this is the place to be and learn from it."

Though he never got a chance to debut with Washington, Oduya is very pleased to finally be here and hopes to continue to impress with his new club.

"Anytime you get the chance to play in the NHL, I think that's a big thing for any player when you break in."

"It didn't workout in Washington for me but I was happy I came here. I'm happy I'm playing here and I'll try to do my best and we'll see what happens."

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