Blackhawks

After rough start, Patrick Sharp in a better place with the Stars

After rough start, Patrick Sharp in a better place with the Stars

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.” 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

David Haugh, Jason Goff and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Pat Boyle and Patrick Sharp drop by to talk about the Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals. Plus, Sharpie talks about the young Hawks who will be stars in the future.

12:00- Super Bowl LIII is set after a dramatic and controversial Championship Sunday. Does the NFL need to expand instant replay to include pass interference after a no-call cost the Saints a Super Bowl bid? Plus does the league need to change its overtime format after Patrick Mahomes didn't get to touch the ball at the end of the AFC title game?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

It's no surprise that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had offensive explosions after getting put on the same line together on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. But at the same time it was.

The duo played 273:28 minutes at even strength together last season, according to naturalstattrick.com, but had a minus-6 goal differential during that time. It was bizarre because they controlled 56.9 percent of the shot attempts and 60.5 percent of the high-danger chances.

Perhaps the hockey gods are repaying them for what they deserved a year ago. Or those are the results you're eventually going to get when you put two future Hall of Famers on the ice at the same time.

“For an offensive guy that wants the puck, he’s pretty much the perfect center to play with," Kane said. "He wins a lot of battles, he wins faceoffs, he’s obviously able to make plays and he can get to the hard areas, too, so he opens up a lot of space. We haven’t played with each other a lot over the past handful of years, but we played a lot together early on, so I think sometimes we just kind of revert back to what we did back then. It makes the game simple. It’s not like you have to think too much or even talk too much about what we want to do. We just want to work hard, win battles and play well defensively. If we do that, we should get a lot of chances.”

Toews turned the clock back before he and Kane were even in the NHL.

"I remember since we were like 12 or 13 playing against each other in Triple-A hockey, he was one of the smallest guys out there and he just seemed to be able to handle the puck so well even at that age," Toews said of Kane. "He could back defenders off and create time and space. He was tough to check because he was slippery and he was just deceptive. I think that's what sets him above everybody else in the league and most star players that maybe can take advantage of skating, size and speed where he doesn't really need any of those things. He's so smart when he gets the puck."

Whether or not they stay together for the long term remains to be seen, but the when Nos. 19 and 88 are clicking, usually the Blackhawks are too.

Brent Seabrook's contract

It's no secret in Chicago that Seabrook's contract sticks out as one that won't exactly age well for the Blackhawks under a salary cap system. At age 33, he's in Year 3 of an eight-year deal that carries a $6.875 million cap hit. 

While his best years on the ice may be behind him, his teammates believe Seabrook is still as important as ever inside the locker room and the team unity. Kane came to his defense on Monday after practice in response to a question about the core veterans trying to sustain a winning culture in a trying season.

"People want to get on Seabs about his contract," Kane said. "But to us, he’s underpaid [for] what he brings in this locker room and the way he’s such a great leader, such a big part of this locker room, takes in every guy just like he’s known him his whole life. He’s an unbelievable teammate. Even that game when we missed him when he was sick, you lose your heart and soul of the team a little bit because he’s such a big piece."

Corey Crawford update

Jeremy Colliton's playing career was cut short because of his concussion history. He knows exactly what Crawford is going through, which means he knows how to handle his situation from a coach's perspective.

Crawford skated with the team for the first time over the weekend, but Colliton cautioned not to read anything into it. He didn't provide much more information than that.

On Monday, Colliton offered a longer-form response on why he's been mum about Crawford's status:

"Him going on the ice, I said it two days ago, not to read too much into it. It’s going to be a process here. The day-to-day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s over time. Is he feeling better? Is he progressing? I’m not in his ear, 'How are you feeling?', asking [head athletic trainer Mike Gapski], 'How’s Crow feeling?' It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help him and minute-to-minute, it doesn’t matter. It’s over time, how does he feel, is he getting better? Did I talk to him today? Yeah I talked to him today. But I didn’t ask him how he was feeling. Because day to day, it’s a non-issue. I just want him to be happy and over time, feel better. And then we’ll see if he can play at the end of that."

Barry Smith's role

When Blackhawks practiced wrapped up on Monday, Smith addressed the team in a huddle, got a stick tap ovation and received a handshake from every player. This was his last practice as the assistant coach, and Tuesday vs. the New York Islanders will be his last game behind the bench before Sheldon Brookbank officially takes full control of those responsibilities along with Don Granato.

After Tuesday, Smith will transition back into his role with the Blackhawks as Director of Player Evaluation.

"Certainly his experience and just his presence," Colliton said on what Smith brought to the table. "Great guy, very, very fun to be around. I knew him from last year, he’d been around Rockford. We were a little bit shorthanded and he left his wife and his previous life, lived in a hotel for two and a half months and was a great resource for me and the staff, and really appreciate that. He’s been through the wars already, so for him to come back into it was very selfless of him, I thought."

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