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CHICAGO -- Both Chicago Blackhawks’ stars wanted to make it clear: It’s about team first.
But after the Hawks get their wins, there’s a (mostly) friendly rivalry among players and none is better -- or more entertaining -- than between the Patricks (Kane and Sharp).
After every game, players are given the score sheet, examining it like a scientist looking through a microscope.
“We go over the different sheets to see who’s name is first even though we both have the same amount of points,” Kane joked Thursday before the Hawks left town for a game in North Carolina. “It seems like that’s the way it is with a lot of guys around here. I think Sharpie and I are a little bit more vocal about it and show it a little bit more. We have fun with each other.”
The NHL season can be a grind and pushing each other in the form of who has better statistics can actually motivate on some less than energized nights. So what stats are they looking at?
|Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane have keyed the Blackhawks' fast start.|
“All across the board,” Sharp said. “Points are most valuable, obviously. Goals more important than assists because he gets lots of assists, I get lots of goals so I put more emphasis on the goals.”
But it’s not just the offensive stats. In fact, when given the box score, they immediately look at the secondary numbers.
“Hits is a big one too between us and lately faceoffs,” Sharp said. “He’s been doing well on face-offs. He’s been rubbing it in quite a bit, who’s a better faceoff guy. We’ll let the stats tell the story.”
Through eight games the numbers are pretty even. They both have eight points. Sharp has one more goal and Kane has one more helper. They’re both plus-4. Kane is wining 56 percent of his faceoffs while Sharp is at 54.5 percent. Sharp has him “beat” in penalty minutes with 18 compared to just two for Kane.
“We always joke about penalty minutes which he’s way ahead of me,” Kane said. “Usually we’re on the same pace but he’s way ahead of me right now so he’s got me on that one. Points, penalty minutes, pretty much anything.”
Sharp’s 18 penalty minutes are mostly thanks to a mysterious 10-minute misconduct infraction he received in the season’s second game. But isn’t the one with bragging rights the player who has less minutes in the box?
“Well, yeah, [but] he’s saying right now he’s the toughest guy in the game so sometimes it’s funny,” Kane explained.
Both less than physical players, chuckled when they mentioned comparing hits. Sharp has 12, Kane has been credited with just one -- good for a tie for 576th in the league.
“You try not to rub it in at that moment,” Sharp said of the joking. “Maybe the next day, you let it sink in for a couple of hours until the guy can cool down but its just all in good fun.”Power-play changes
Part of practice time on Thursday was spent -- yet again -- on the Hawks' struggling power-play unit. They’re just 4-for-30 with the man advantage, so Joel Quenneville made some personnel and strategic changes.
“It can be better,” he said. “When we don’t like the way things are looking or going, whether you make a little change or one or two moves here [or there], sometimes that can ignite it. It’s a different look and maybe something the opposition doesn’t see.”
Personnel-wise Marian Hossa and Andrew Brunette switched places on the two power-play units. Additionally, players were moving around their positions as they entered the offensive zone, including Sharp, who’s played the point for much of the last two years.
“We’re just throwing different looks out there,” he said. “Some different players in different positions. Just trying something new because it hasn’t been as successful in the last couple games as we’d like.”
Jonathan Toews was asked if it was simply stale with many of the same players on the top unit over the last couple of seasons.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Toews stated. “When things aren’t working you have to try different things. We’re not making a big deal out of it. We’re going to try and keep working at it….We’re all kind of all over the place. Not one guy is really limited to one position.”
Look for Hossa and Kane to set up on the half-walls with Brent Seabrook at the top of the point. Toews and Sharp were floating, looking for shooting lanes while creating screens in front.
The second unit has Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Brunette up front with Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy on the point.Slappers
• Corey Crawford will start Friday’s game in Carolina, according to Joel Quenneville. The Hawks’ coach indicated Ray Emery would probably play in one of the games over the weekend. They host the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators on Saturday and Monday, respectively.
• Quenneville also indicated some of the other regular scratches—Sami Lepisto, John Scott or Rostislav Olez could play as well this weekend but coaches are slow to change the lineup while the team is on a hot streak. The Hawks have earned at least one point in seven consecutive contests since losing in regulation opening night.