Sharp on playing center: 'I'm fine with whatever Joel wants to do'
Patrick Sharp is fine with playing center if that's what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wants.
Sharp was at center Saturday in Pittsburgh as Quenneville again tweaked his lines. Kris Versteeg, who has been playing a lot of center since Dave Bolland went out with back surgery, played left wing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
"I came into the league as a center, so I'm fine with whatever Joel wants to do," said Sharp, who gives Quenneville a bit more size in the middle than with Versteeg.
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said last week going out and trading for a center to replace Bolland wasn't a high priority. Plus the Hawks have virtually no salary-cap room to take on any players.
"We've had different guys that we've used (at center), and that's one of the things that Joel has always pointed to, that we have some versatile forwards," Bowman said. "You need to have that because if you look around the league a lot of teams are going through injuries and you've got to find guys that are going to play in roles maybe they didn't think they would.
"We've been able to get through it so far, so we'll see how it goes."
Push to play: Up until now, Joel Quenneville's tendency has been to play backup goalie Antti Niemi only when the Hawks have back-to-back games.
Quenneville admitted after Saturday's 2-1 win in Pittsburgh, when Niemi made 32 saves in a sparking performance, that he might have to start playing Niemi more.
Niemi is 5-1-1 in six starts (he came on once in relief of Cristobal Huet) and has a 1.71 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
The Hawks have only one set of back-to-back games the rest of the month, on Dec. 22-23 against San Jose and Detroit.
One and done: Unfortunately, the Hawks and the Penguins are done playing each other for the regular season.
But if Saturday's game showed anything it's that these are two very good teams capable of meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals.
"We wanted to prove we could play with this team," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "We've heard a lot about them and wanted to show them our best."
The Hawks wanted to prove themselves as well.
"We came into this arena with high expectations of wanting to win," said Kris Versteeg, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the Hawks. "To come in and beat the defending Stanley Cup champs is special."
So far, so very good: In six games since his return from shoulder surgery, Marian Hossa has 3 goals and 3 assists.
"My legs are moving better and better," he said.