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.

Facing the Blackhawks in Round One is 'going to be fun' for Robin Lehner

Facing the Blackhawks in Round One is 'going to be fun' for Robin Lehner

Saturday afternoon, after eliminating the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in Game 4 on Friday night, the Blackhawks learned they'll be facing the Vegas Golden Knights and very likely a certain former Hawks goalie in Round One.

Robin Lehner was in net for the Knights in their overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche to help Vegas grab the No. 1 seed in the West for Round One, pitting them against the Blackhawks, who were the No. 12 seed in the qualifying round.

Related: Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner unveils new pads

Lehner has seen the majority of the starts in net for the Knights at the beginning of the postseason tournament over three-time Stanley Cup champ Marc-Andre Fleury.

The 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist was traded from Chicago to Vegas ahead of Feb. 24's trade deadline. He was 16-10-5 as a Hawk during the 2019-20 regular season with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage prior to the move.

Related: Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner's birthday cake is unreal

Following Saturday's game, Lehner was asked about facing the Blackhawks and his former goalie partner Corey Crawford in Round One and if playing with them earlier this season carries an advantage.

"I don't know. All I know is it's going to be fun playing them," Lehner said. "They're a very good hockey team and I have a lot of respect for them, the whole organization... but I think I really like it here (with Vegas), we're a great hockey team."

The 29-year-old netminder got off to a hot start with Vegas ahead of the NHL pause on March 12 going 3-0-0 with 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. 

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Blackhawks to face Robin Lehner, Vegas in Round 1 of Stanley Cup Playoffs

Blackhawks to face Robin Lehner, Vegas in Round 1 of Stanley Cup Playoffs

It's official: The Blackhawks will face Robin Lehner and the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Golden Knights defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 overtime win in Saturday's round-robin finale to secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks, who eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in four games on Friday, will serve as the No. 8 seed.

The Blackhawks went 1-1-1 and had a minus-2 goal differential in three games against the Golden Knights this season. Their most recent matchup was on Dec. 11, which resulted in a 5-1 win for the Golden Knights.

You won't find a better puck possession team in the league than the Golden Knights, who generated the most scoring chances and high-danger chances at even strength of any team this season. The Blackhawks will certainly have their work cut out for them.

"It’s a great challenge for us," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I'm happy that we get the opportunity to prepare for them and compete against them. We feel that we’ve been getting better all the time and it’s going to be a great test for us."

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