Patrick Sharp is glad to have that out of the way.
Sharp returned to the Blackhawks’ lineup on Tuesday at Minnesota and shook off the rust of missing 14 games with a sprained left shoulder.
“It felt like the first game after the lockout ended, just my timing was off a little,” Sharp told reporters. “Being off for so long, it’s tough to miss a month and jump right back into the swing of things. I had good linemates and teammates who made it easy for me. There’s always room for improvement, but for my first game I felt fine.
“I got in a couple hits early to make sure I felt into the game and ready to go. It was nice to jump into another team win.”
Sharp skated at left wing on the second line with Marcus Kruger and Patrick Kane and played almost 18 minutes. He had 5 shots on goal and won 6 of 9 faceoffs.
He also survived a tumble into the boards late in the game.
“Just a stinger, nothing crazy,” Sharp said.
Sharp enjoys taking faceoffs even when he is playing a wing.
“I like taking draws, it’s something worked on since I entered the league in Philadelphia,” Sharp said. “Krugs is great at draws so he can take them as well, but if he wants me to step in there and take a few then I’m more than willing to do that.”
Sharp repeated that he’ll play wherever Hawks coach Joel Quenneville wants him to play.
“I’ll play wherever they tell me to play, I don’t care, to be honest with you,” Sharp said. “I’ve played half and half my whole career, center and wing, so I’ll do what the coach tells me. We’ve got a pretty good thing going here right now and I was just happy to get back in the swing of things with the team. It’s a great team to be a part of. We’re a good team, I think, with or without me.”
Sharp is being too modest, as usual. The Hawks are a tremendously better team with him in the lineup and everybody knows it.
“I though he looked really good,” Kane said. “He was strong on the puck and had some shots and some chances and almost had a couple goals. I’m sure he’ll get back in the groove, but for his first game I thought he was very good for sure.”
The Hawks’ 1-0 win at Minnesota was their second 1-0 victory in three games — both with Ray Emery in goal.
“We’ve seen a lot of that in the West lately,” Kane said. “Teams are tightening it up, the goaltending’s been good and it’s tough to get chances out there. It’s definitely a playoff atmosphere. We’ve just got to be ready to play those games if it comes that way. If it’s a 1-0 game or 6-5 game — obviously we don’t want to give up that many goals — but I think we’ve done a good job of taking advantage of our good goaltending.”
For Kane, it feels like it did in 2010 with the growing questions about the goalies going into the playoffs, except this time it’s Emery and Corey Crawford both playing well.
In 2010, Antti Niemi seized the job from a struggling Cristobal Huet down the stretch and led the Hawks to the Stanley Cup.
“That was probably one of the question marks going into the playoffs that year in 2010 was our goaltending,” Kane said. “Obviously, Antti played great. This year we have a lot of confidence and we’re excited for whoever is in net.”
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