Rozner: Chicago Blackhawks' Sharp happy, healthy in homecoming

With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, of course you can go home again.

As for what you will find when you get there, well, rediscovering the magic is another story - or novel, if you will.

Such has been the case for Patrick Sharp in his Blackhawks homecoming.

Off the ice, it's been great.

"In the same house and the kids are in school," Sharp said with a big smile. "It's really good to be back. It feels really good to be home."

Sent packing in a salary cap move in 2015 after being an integral part of three Stanley Cups, Sharp signed here over the summer for less than a million bucks and with realistic expectations.

Given his age - 36 later this month - and injury problems last season in Dallas, and depending on where he found himself in the lineup, 25 or 30 points for the season would have been a fair mark to shoot at.

With 3 goals and 4 assists through 25 games heading into Saturday night's game in Texas, Sharp was on pace for 23 points. He's had enough good looks to have a better stat line, and come playoff time the Hawks will need more from him to do any serious damage.

For now, his value goes beyond the numbers.

"There's nothing he hasn't seen before in this game," said 21-year-old Nick Schmaltz. "He knows so much about the game and how things are supposed to be done. It's great to have a guy like that who you can ask about anything."

While the Hawks adjust to having so many new faces in the lineup, Sharp says he feels completely comfortable.

"On the ice, it all feels very familiar," Sharp said. "I paid attention to the Hawks the two years I was in Dallas. I was obviously committed to the Stars, but I watched every Hawks game I could.

"All my best friends in the game are on the Hawks. I knew a lot about the team, even the guys I hadn't played with, the guys who got here after I left.

"Once training camp was over, it was just like the old days, kind of like I hadn't left."

That includes knowing that he might find himself on any line at any moment of any game. That could be unsettling for some unaccustomed to Joel Quenneville's line-juggling.

In the past, Sharp didn't always get the benefit of the doubt from the head coach, but given the circumstances, Quenneville will need to rely on the veteran winger.

"I know what it's like and there's no other coach I'd rather play for," Sharp said. "I feel like he gets the best out of his players. He knows when you're ready to play and puts you in the best situation to succeed.

"Body feels good after a tough season last year, just a matter of finding that role and adjusting to whatever role Joel wants me to play.

"It's been a tough stretch this last month, but I feel like the numbers will come."

Sharp was a huge part of three Cup runs, collecting 53 points in 68 games those playoffs, good for third behind only Patrick Kane (70) and Jonathan Toews (64) in ring years, not to mention leading all postseason scorers with 10 goals in 2013.

The hands and eyes are still there and the mind is willing, even if the legs don't always cooperate. Anyone who's played 14 years in the NHL knows that feeling.

Sometimes you step on the gas and it feels like nothing's changed. Sometimes you see the rebound before the shot and get to the puck. But sometimes you hit that pedal and nothing happens.

It's just the reality of being an AARP member of a preschool league.

Still, it feels right to see No. 10 busting down the left side in a Hawks sweater, and when he's in stride you can hear the buzz from the hometown fans who seem very glad that one of their favorites has returned.

"From the minute I stepped onto the United Center ice, it just felt right," Sharp said. "It felt like home."


• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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