DALLAS – Patrick Sharp is in a good place again.
The former Blackhawks forward is in better health and is back helping the Dallas Stars try to reach the postseason. He’s got two young linemates, whose exuberance is rubbing off on the veteran left wing. And since returning to the Stars’ lineup on Dec. 31, he has five goals and six assists.
“It was a good month of January, which is a nice change,” Sharp said on Friday. “Because it was a rough start.”
It was definitely that, as Sharp was sidelined twice with symptoms from a concussion he suffered in October. As February begins, however, Sharp is back to himself with his health and his game. On Saturday he’ll face the Blackhawks, the team with which he won his three Stanley Cups and the team he’s been linked to again in trade rumors.
But we’ll get to that later. Right now, Sharp is focused on what he and the Stars could still do in the Western Conference.
“As far as individually, personally I feel like I’m skating well and back to where I feel I can play my game,” Sharp said. “It’s been a tough year, no question. Different stretches have been more difficult than others.”
The concussion, which Sharp suffered on Oct. 20, was the most difficult part. He almost went back into that game but, in a season where concussion protocol became more stringent, Sharp was held out. The next day, while walking his dog, Sharp felt the first bad symptoms.
“I had to sit down on a bench because I was walking the dog and felt the spins coming on, the nausea,” Sharp said. “I thought, ‘something’s not right’ and I should listen to the doctors.
“Mine was all motion sickness, nausea,” Sharp continued. “I didn’t have any problems with headaches, sensitivity to noise or lights. My wife says I wasn’t forgetful. But tracking with the eyes would cause dizziness. Emotionally I had a lot of anxiety, whether that was from not playing or the timeline, there were lot of unknowns. But once I got back on the ice and around the team and into the normal pro hockey player routine, things cleared up.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
Sharp missed 14 games, returned for seven, suffered from symptoms again and missed another 12 contests. Helping the Stars loomed larger than his health on that first return.
“I wanted to get back and help the team win. I struggling at the time and probably came back and forced it too much. I’d always heard stories going through those situations but I couldn’t realize it because I’d gotten to this point not having to deal with it,” said Sharp, who says he now has a greater appreciation for the league’s more stringent concussion protocol. “I’d thought I’d dealt with something similar until this one. It was more significant than anything else I’ve ever felt.”
But that was then and Sharp is feeling great now. He’s currently on a line with Radek Faksa and Devin Shore, and Sharp said their energy is infectious.
“They enjoy coming to the rink, they’re always positive and that rubs off on me,” Sharp said. “We have some chemistry and able to score some goals. They’re taking pride in responsibility out there; it’s usually a big task of playing against big players. It’s fun to come back in that sense.”
Speaking of coming back, with the March 1 trade deadline looming there has been speculation about Sharp possibly returning to the Blackhawks. Sharp has been through this trade-talk stuff before and he’s not letting it sway his focus.
“Honestly, a couple of years ago it probably would have set me off more than it has this year. Going through the stuff with the Hawks has made more experienced. I don’t get too fired up,” said Sharp, who will visit with some of his former teammates this weekend. “I’m committed to Dallas, excited to be a Star and we have a chance to make a run. That’s what I’m thinking about. The other outside stuff isn’t in my control and doesn’t affect me.”
Heading into Saturday’s game against the Blackhawks, the Stars are 12th in the Western Conference with 52 points. That’s just three points shy of the current eighth-place team (St. Louis Blues). The Stars have struggled with injuries and inconsistency all season but yet could still grab a playoff spot. Who knows what happens from now until March 1 but Sharp isn’t thinking about or listening to the trade speculation. Right now, it’s about the Stars.
“To be within striking distance is encouraging,” Sharp said. “We know we’ve yet to play our best hockey. We’ve had a good couple of stretches here in the new year and want to be consistent and string games together. We’re looking forward to the next 30.”