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Patrick Sharp makes instant impact in return to Blackhawks lineup

NEWARK, N.J. — It was a little weird at first for Patrick Sharp. Not the fact that he was playing for the first time since Nov. 4, but that he was doing so at right wing, a position he hasn’t played in more than four years.

“I felt good; I think the biggest adjustment was playing the right side,” Sharp said following the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. “But I felt like it got better as the game went on. Our line was able to create some chances. We can be a little tighter in our own end. For the first game in over a month, I felt pretty good.”

Sharp assisted on Bryan Bickell’s second-period goal, and tied Marian Hossa for the team-high with five shots on goal in 17 minutes, 22 seconds of ice time. He skated on the third line with Bickell and Andrew Shaw. He had a few good chances, but his best came shortly before Stephen Gionta’s go-ahead goal in the third period, when he intercepted a Jaromir Jagr pass in the defensive zone and raced down to the other end of the ice, only to be denied by Devils rookie goaltender Keith Kinkaid.

“He looked comfortable,” Jonathan Toews said. “I don’t think the coaching staff was trying to put too much on his shoulders right away, but he stepped in and created some offense for us the way he always does. It’s not easy to do. He mentioned he missed 14 games. When you’re playing every day, it doesn’t feel like you’re missing a guy like that for that long. It goes by pretty fast. But it’s never easy for anybody to step back in and he did a pretty good job of it tonight.”

Usually a player takes a game or two to get his timing back. But Sharp said it only took him a couple of periods, and most of that was just getting used to being on the other side of the rink.

“I think it’s back now,” he said. “First couple of periods were a little shaky, but I don’t think that was from missing hockey, I think it was just playing the opposite side. By the third period I felt back to normal. I know I can get better, but it was fine for the first game.”

“Fine” was good enough for the Hawks against the Devils. They didn’t play their best game, but rallied for the victory behind Duncan Keith’s equalizer late in the third, and Toews and Patrick Kane scoring in the shootout.

“It wasn’t our best effort, I think Joel [Quenneville] will say that,” Sharp said. “But we found a way to win, and that’s a sign of a good team.”


Twitter: @marklazerus