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Sharp a potent weapon in shorthanded spots

by Brian Compton

Given the deadly shooters in the Western Conference -- Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, etc. -- it's always a huge gamble when a team takes a penalty.

Nonetheless, the West boasts quite a few players who can match the opposition's power play by being a weapon shorthanded. At the end of the day, those players provide their teams with an opportunity to regain the momentum.

Here is's top five shorthanded performers in the Western Conference:

1. Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks -- The 26-year-old was remarkable last season, setting career highs in goals (36), assists (26), points (52) and plus/minus (plus-23).

Sharp even thrived when the Blackhawks were down a man, as he tied for the League lead with seven shorthanded goals. With Cristobal Huet and Brian Campbell in the mix, Chicago's penalty kill might even be better this season.

2. Rene Bourque, Calgary Flames -- As teams enter this season trying to figure new ways to improve their PK, they really should look no further than Chicago for ideas.

While Bourque has found a new home, his work in the Windy City last season can't be disputed. Bourque scored only 10 goals in 2007-08, but half of them came shorthanded.

That's right -- five shorthanded goals and zero power-play tallies. When's the last time that happened? 

3. Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Even strength, power play, shorthanded … it really doesn't matter what the situation is -- Nash can flat-out score, plain and simple.

The All-Star forward enjoyed another terrific season with 38 goals. Four of them came shorthanded, which was remarkable when you consider he had one in his career entering the 2007-08 campaign.

4. Mike Grier, San Jose Sharks -- He did it rather quietly, but the 33-year-old led the Sharks with three shorthanded goals last season.

Not bad when you consider Grier finished the campaign with nine goals total. Grier, however, is making a name for himself in shorthanded situations, as he also scored three times with his team down a man in 2006-07.

5. Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks -- When it comes to Vancouver forwards, few were more serviceable than Burrows in 2007-08.

He appeared in all 82 games, posted a highly respectable plus-11 rating and stood up for his teammates -- evidenced by his 179 penalty minutes. Not only that, but Burrows scored 12 goals, with a quarter of them coming shorthanded. With three tallies, Burrows edged out Trevor Linden and Ryan Kesler for the team lead.

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