Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago Blackhawks [Print without images]

Friday, May 3, 2013
Hawks' Sharp looking to get sharp again

By Scott Powers

Patrick Sharp
Patrick Sharp is slowly getting back on track after missing 20 games.
CHICAGO -- Thirty minutes after Thursday's Chicago Blackhawks practice had completed and all of his teammates were gone, forward Patrick Sharp remained on the ice and took shot after shot from the high slot.

It's the sort of additional work normally seen from younger players, but for the veteran Sharp he can use all the extra practice he can get after missing 20 regular season games with an upper-body injury and playing just two regular-season games before the playoffs began.

"Just shooting the puck, just getting back to the basics, just firing the puck as much you can," Sharp explained of his Thursday work. "It's always nice when you can play a number of games and get that rhythm going. Whenever I can get on the ice and stay out there as long as I can or get out there, I'm definitely going to take advantage of it."

Sharp is slowing getting back to his normal self. He scored an empty-net goal and had three shots on goal during 16:05 of ice time in his first game back from injury on April 24. He had an assist and one shot on goal during 15:54 of ice time on April 26. In Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, he had five shots on goal and 19:01 of ice time.

Sharp said he feels fine from a conditioning standpoint, but he just needs to improve a few other facets of his game.

"I honestly feel better now than I ever have skating-wise," Sharp said. "I move my feet, lungs, all that stuff goes hand in hand. I fell pretty solid out there. It's just a matter of getting some fine-tuning, the timing, hanging onto the puck, making some good plays."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Friday he expects Sharp to progress throughout the playoffs.

"I think at the end of the season he's only played a couple of games going into these playoffs," Quenneville said. "I think we're expecting him to get better as we go along here and be that player."

When Sharp has been healthy in his career, he's often been a difference-maker in the regular season and playoffs. He entered this season with 23 goals and 17 assists in 64 career playoff games.

"He gives us some skill," Quenneville said. "He gives us some ability to create, be it off the rush or in zone. He's a threat to score when he's out there. Power play should be improved. He's an experienced guy, veteran guy and got to lead us in some ways."