It’s tough to say who was happier to have Patrick Sharp
back on the ice: his teammates or the man himself.
Sharp made his presence felt immediately; in his first game since February 14, he netted two goals and added an assist as the Hawks defeated the Kings 4-1 Sunday. The Blackhawks had compiled a record of 6-7-3 without him.
“I was excited to put the jersey back on and skate with the guys again,” Sharp said. “It’s just good to be back.”
The Blackhawks seemed to be running on all cylinders Sunday as their offense, defense and goaltending all played their part in the much-needed victory. But no contribution made as big of an impact as Sharp's.
“Having him back was huge,” said Brent Seabrook
. “He’s such a great guy in the room; he brings speed and intensity to the team, and is a natural goal scorer. We liked having him back today.”
“We came out with some energy, and I think Sharpie was a big part of that,” said Duncan Keith
. “He’s a big part of our offense and he takes a lot of pressure of everybody else. He played great and I think that was a big reason why we won.”
Head coach Joel Quenneville says that he liked the energy that Sharp – who was the team’s leading goal scorer when he went on injured reserve – showed in practice over the last week. With Sharp back in the lineup, the Hawks can afford to spread out their offense rather than relying on their few top forwards.
“Having him back in the lineup gives us three dangerous lines of offense,” Quenneville said. “He gave us a big lift and he played very well. Adding a player like that to our lineup changes a lot of things.”
Quenneville said that his alternate captain’s transition back into game play was made much easier by Sharp’s strong work ethic and desire to return as soon as possible.
“He had a long time to rehab and his conditioning was excellent,” he said. “He really wanted to come back weeks ago, but of course that wasn’t possible. It usually takes some time for guys to get back up to speed after a layoff but you’ve got to commend him for how he prepared. He did a nice job.”
“I’m still a little shaky out there, but it will come back,” Sharp said. “It’s never easy to sit out for any reason, but I tried to make it a positive. I watched a lot of hockey and tried to learn as much as I could. I came back fresh and ready to go, and hopefully this is the start of a good streak.”