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Sharp expected to return Saturday

Stars forward ready to go after missing 14 games due to concussion

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Friday brought more good news on the injury front for the Dallas Stars. It appears that forward Patrick Sharp is ready to return to the lineup Saturday after missing about one month due to a concussion.

"From my understanding, Patrick is ready to go," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I had a conversation with him yesterday, and he had a good skate today. I will just confirm that later with him, make sure he got through today. I would anticipate that he could be back."

Sharp sounded as if he was ready to go after Friday's practice in Frisco. Sharp began skating with the team last week during the road trip and has been ramping it up this week.

"It feels great," Sharp said. "I joined the team last week on the road, and that was good for me. Being out a couple weeks, it was good being around the team and to get a few practices in. The body feels great. I feel I am past the injury. I feel I am in great shape and ready to get back in there whenever the coach wants."

Sharp suffered the concussion in the Oct. 20 game against Los Angeles when he was hit hard along the boards by Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb. He's missed a total of 14 games. Sharp said it was not easy dealing with an injury where there is no set timeframe for recovery.

"Most injuries you can circle a date, but the injury I suffered was a day-to-day thing I thought I had experienced in the past, but never quite like this," Sharp said. "It is scary. When you break a bone you have a timeframe and you know it's going to heal. The type of injury that I had, you hear some scary stories from around the league. You try to talk to former teammates, current teammates that have been through the same situation and get as much information as you can."

"It's a helpless feeling, but one thing I will say is that we have great trainers and team doctors here in Dallas. They helped me a lot through it. They got me back to game shape and ready to play. "

Sharp's return would be another boost for the Stars, who got forward Jason Spezza back from a lower-body injury on Tuesday and center Cody Eakin back from a knee injury on Thursday. Now, it appears Sharp could return Saturday when the Stars play Edmonton at American Airlines Center.

"I think [Sharp] has speed. I've said it's been missing from our attack a little bit, our game has been a little bit different, but the speed of our game should get better," Ruff said. "That speed inside of a small area, from center ice to the blue line, gets better where we're a threat to take somebody wide to help create that extra offensive chance. There's lots of things [Sharp brings]. He's a been there, done that guy. He's good in the room, but first and foremost, you have to do it on the ice."

While the return of players like Sharp, Eakin and Spezza is good news, Ruff said it could take some time before the team sees the full impact because the returning players will need some games to start hitting on all cylinders.  

"I think that it's hard, but I've seen where guys come back and it takes a little while," Ruff said. "I thought [Eakin] was good, he was good in the faceoff circle. I thought he added something to our team. Do I think he's on top of his game yet? No, but I think you get him four or five games, and he'll be good. And in Sharp's case, I've seen a lot of times where a player comes back from what he's gone through and takes a little bit. There's a little bit of unknown when players come back in. I think Spezza is in that category too, hasn't quite been able to push it as hard as we need him to push it."

Sharp's return would leave the Stars with three forwards still out with injury. Jiri Hudler has missed the past nine games and 14 of the past 16 due to illness, but he is starting to feel better, Ruff said. Mattias Janmark (knee surgery) and Ales Hemsky (hip surgery) are not expected to return for the regular season.

Smith to AHL

With Patrick Sharp about ready to return, the Stars assigned forward Gemel Smith to the Texas Stars of the AHL on Friday. Smith played well in his first call-up to the NHL, registering three points (one goal, two assists) in 12 games.

"I've said that Gemel, for me, was a complete surprise. He totally exceeded expectations and did a nice job," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "That should do wonders for him down there. You have to get by the disappointment, but at the same time you can reflect back and say, man, I can play. He did. He found a little niche and played important minutes, killed penalties for us and scored a couple big goals."

Ruff said that defenseman Esa Lindell, who was assigned to Texas on Thursday, needs to get some playing time.

"The real important part, he needs to play," Ruff said. "Esa went through a really good period of play for us, and he'll be back playing again. There's no doubt in my mind that it'll probably be sooner than later."

Ruff added that both Lindell and Smith have proved that "they can be players for us."

Practice notes

Forward Patrick Eaves and defenseman Johnny Oduya did not practice Friday. It was a maintenance day for both players.

Here's how the Stars lined up in practice:

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Lauri Korpikoski
Devin Shore - Cody Eakin - Jason Spezza
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Dan Hamhuis - John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Maintenance days: Patrick Eaves, Johnny Oduya

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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