Under normal circumstance Patrick Sharp wouldn't -- and probably shouldn't -- have been in the Blackhawks' lineup Wednesday night.
But these aren't normal times for the defending Stanley Cup champs, who are still not assured of a playoff spot heading into the last weekend of the regular season.
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Sharp returned after missing more than two weeks due to a knee injury and helped spark the Hawks to a critical 4-3 win over St. Louis in overtime.
Sharp could be seen favoring his left knee at times, particularly after going knee-to-knee with one of the Blues in the second period, but he battled on and ended the night with some impressive numbers in almost 20 minutes of ice time with an assist, 7 shots on goal and a team high 4 hits.
"It's important everyone is playing well this time of year and you do what you can individually," Sharp said. "I wanted to get out there and play and do what I could."
Sharp's gutsy return did not go unnoticed around the NHL as former Hawk Jeremy Roenick tweeted on Thursday: "I'll tell you what, Patrick Sharp is a stud for playing last night with a bum knee. That's what leaders do. They sacrifice for their team."
Sharp admitted he was rusty, but the timing for his return couldn't have been better after Troy Brouwer was lost Tuesday at Montreal with a shoulder injury that may require surgery after the season.
"It was a good start," Sharp said. "Hopefully I'll be better Friday."
The Hawks' season comes down to the final two games, a home-and-home set with the Red Wings, just like many have been predicting it would.
The Hawks are approaching the weekend like they need to win both games to get in the playoffs no matter what Dallas does in its final games against Colorado and Minnesota.
"Everything is still in our hands," Marian Hossa said.
The Stars are the only team outside the top eight that can still make the playoffs after Calgary was eliminated on Wednesday when the Hawks and Anaheim won.
"We know we can play harder and better and we're going to have to, playing Detroit and beyond," defenseman Duncan Keith said.
The Hawks are still sputtering at times, which they showed against the Blues as they fell behind 2-0 early.
Things changed dramatically following Hossa's controversial goal midway through the second period. The Hawks played with emotion and desperation the rest of the way and didn't stop until Jonathan Toews' goal in OT won it.
"You saw the motivation and determination we had on the ice," Toews said.
"We didn't have a great start, giving up a goal in the first minute isn't what you're looking for," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "All of a sudden you're down 2, in a terrible spot, but we worked our way back into the game."
While the Red Wings have clinched the Central Division and a playoff spot, they trail San Jose by 1 point in the race for the second seed in the West, which could mean home ice in the first two rounds.
Detroit won't have leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg for either game after he suffered a lower body injury Wednesday.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he hopes Zetterberg will be healthy enough for the first game of the playoffs next Wednesday or Thursday.
"He's not playing the next two games and he's day-to-day after that," Babcock said.
"I did MRI so it's definitely -- I will say it was better than I thought," Zetterberg said.