Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp sad to leave Blackhawks, but looking forward to Stars

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Patrick Sharp sad to leave Blackhawks, but looking forward to Stars

Patrick Sharp felt the emotional mix once he found out he was traded to the Dallas Stars.

After hearing speculation and innuendo for quite a while now, there was naturally happiness to have the deal finally done. And while he’s ready to start a new chapter with a team on the rise, he’s also sad to leave a Blackhawks team he helped bring back to life.

Sharp talked Saturday of the four-player deal that sends him to Dallas. For Sharp, the last few weeks and months have been exhilarating and tiring. He won another Stanley Cup, the third the Blackhawks claimed in the past six seasons. He also heard constant chatter on where he could end up, given the Blackhawks’ salary-cap issues. And when the deal was finally made, it was like a weight was lifted.

[MORE: Stan Bowman - Blackhawks add pieces that "could help us now"]

“I’ve learned over the years not to listen to too many rumors, where they’re coming from unless they’re coming from [Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman] or my agent. But to hear the speculation was certainly something. It wasn’t weighting but it was getting annoying to a point,” Sharp said via conference call. “We wanted to get something done. I’m thrilled to get to Dallas and ready to get started with a new team.”

It wasn’t so much if Sharp would get traded as when he would get traded. The tighter salary cap – $71.4 million – coupled with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s new deals kicking in this season meant the Blackhawks had to shed money. Sharp, who has two years remaining on his current deal (cap hit of $5.9 million) was the most likely to go. Still, when that call comes, it’s not easy.

“The conversation with Stan was a tough one, as was the one with Joel [Quenneville],” Sharp said. “Whenever you leave an organization, there are certainly mixed emotions. You can’t say anything bad about the Blackhawks. I really enjoyed my time there. I’ve grown into the person I am today because of that organization. I look forward to reconnecting with those guys some day, be it the offseason or playing against them.”

[MORE: Blackhawks trade Patrick Sharp to Dallas Stars]

Sharp is heading to a team trying to return to its successful years (late 1990s-early 2000s). When the Blackhawks acquired Sharp 10 years ago, he was a young player joining a team that was also trying to revive its former glory. Ten years and three Stanley Cups later, Sharp departs Chicago a proven winner.

“It’s amazing to see the turnaround,” Sharp said. “That’s a credit to some of the players who played there, a credit to front office and to the fan base. It’s amazing to see them win their third Cup in a short amount of time. It speaks to the organization, what a quality group it is; first class in every way. Being a part of it for 10 years, it doesn’t surprise me anymore, with such good quality people there that they had such a turnaround.”

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The trade chatter has been silenced. The weight has been lifted for Sharp. It will be difficult to leave the place and a team he called home for the past 10 seasons but this is the business part of the sport that affects so many. It’s been a great run. Now Sharp is ready to turn the page.

“I can tell you I’m extremely proud of everything I’ve accomplished the last 10 years, on and off the ice. Sometimes that gets lost, the off-ice stuff the Hawks allowed me to do, whether it was interacting with fans, helping in a charitable way or just representing the city with the Hawks. The Cups stand out, no question about that,” Sharp said. “But that chapter of my life is over and I’m looking forward to starting a new one.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."