Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp expected to return to Chicago: How will latest Blackhawks reunion go?

Patrick Sharp expected to return to Chicago: How will latest Blackhawks reunion go?

The Blackhawks have had a habit of bringing back former players lately. It appears Patrick Sharp will be the latest they return to the fold.

A source confirmed what multiple reports stated late Friday night, that Sharp will return when free agency opens late Saturday morning. TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported on Friday that Sharp — who the Blackhawks traded to the Dallas Stars on July 10, 2015 — would likely be returning to Chicago.

The 35-year-old Sharp is coming off season-ending hip surgery he underwent in late March. At the time of that surgery, the Stars said Sharp’s expected recovery time was between four and five months. He’s coming off a frustrating season, injury-wise. Besides the hip issue that finally led to surgery, Sharp was out on two separate occasions due to a concussion he suffered early in the 2016-17 season. In a February interview, Sharp talked about how difficult it was to deal with those concussion issues.

“Emotionally I had a lot of anxiety, whether that was from not playing or the (recovery) timeline, there were a lot of unknowns,” he said at the time. “But once I got back on the ice and around the team and into the normal pro hockey player routine, things cleared up.”

Now the question is: How will Sharp be following this hip surgery? The Blackhawks have gone down this road before with re-signing former players. Since 2013 they have welcomed back forwards Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and defensemen Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell. The results have been mixed, at best.

As of now, Sharp will likely be part of the Blackhawks’ bottom six. Brandon Saad, re-acquired last Friday, will start the season as Jonathan Toews’ left wing on the top line. Last Saturday coach Joel Quenneville said Nick Schmaltz would probably get first crack at second-line left wing; Schmaltz subbed for an injured Artem Anisimov twice last season and had pretty good chemistry with Patrick Kane. Granted, we all know how lines change with this team.

The Blackhawks have tried this reunion thing before; we’ll see how it works with Sharp.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?