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All-Star Selectors Better Look Sharp

by Adam Kempenaar / Chicago Blackhawks
You won't find his name on the ballot for January's All-Star Game, but if the hockey gods -- or, the committee of league executives who select the reserves, anyway -- are wise, Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp will be in Atlanta for the festivities.

Modest guy that he is, Sharp says he hasn't even thought about it.

"Not at all. That's a long ways off. That's something that comes as a nice surprise, but you don't play for that kind of stuff."

Team guy that he is, Sharp would rather deflect the attention to his teammates.

"We have lots of good players. I'd be happy to send any one of Toews, Kane, Khabibulin, Lang... Havlat's an All-Star if he's healthy. Seabrook and Keith have been great for us this year, so there's a number of guys.

"I think everyone in this room here is focusing on turning this Hawks organization around and making the playoffs," adds Sharp. "That's definitely what I'm thinking right now."

OK, so Sharp isn't going to make it easy for me and lay out his All-Star credentials. Fortunately, his rookie linemates are happy to do it for him.

"We've had a couple weeks together now and we're getting better and better every game," Sharp says of playing with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. "They're two easy guys to play with. I think they enjoy playing with me, but you'd have to ask them."

I did. Suffice it to say, Sharp's hunch was correct.

"If anyone deserves to go [to the All-Star Game] from our team, it's him," says Kane. "He's been unbelievable in every part of the game -- shorthanded, power play, even strength. I think he's been our best player this year. He's been unbelievably consistent night in and night out, so I think he should go for sure."

"He's been so entertaining to watch and I think that's partly what an All-Star is," says Toews. "But he does so much more than just score and produce. He kills penalties and works so hard all over the ice. That's one of the big reasons he has so many shorthanded goals.

"In so many ways I think he's deserving to be in that game. He's building a name for himself and I think it would be a big stepping stone for him to kind of create his identity as a player and a person. He definitely deserves to be there."

In case you hadn't noticed based on their play, Kane and Toews are wise beyond their 19 years. Sharp may not be a household name yet, but it's pretty easy to build his All-Star case:

  • His 19 goals leads the Blackhawks and is 11th in the league.
  • He leads the league in shorthanded goals with 7 and shorthanded points with 9. In fact, Sharp alone has more shorties than every other team in the league except Atlanta and Ottawa -- both with 7 as well.
  • His 5 game-winning goals is tied for the league lead.
  • His 22.8 shooting percentage is tied for 3rd in the league.
  • At plus-15, he leads the Hawks and is 8th in the league.

In his third full year in the league and second with the Blackhawks, the just-turned 26 year-old forward only needs two goals and four points to eclipse the career highs of 20 and 32, respectively, he set last season. While he may not be worried about whether his hot start is deemed worthy of an All-Star spot, Sharp certainly hopes the Blackhawks are represented.

"With all the excitement around our team right now in the city of Chicago, I think it would be great to send one if not two guys to the All-Star Game and try to generate some excitement, let everybody know that the Hawks are for real this year.

"I've never really gone into a season saying, 'I'm going to make the All-Star Game.' If it happens, it happens. I'll be very grateful and honored to go, but like I said, it's a long ways off."

Keep playing the way you've been playing, Patrick, and it may be a lot closer than you think.

All-Star Fan Balloting ends January 2. The 56th NHL All-Star Game will be played Sunday, January 27.

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