DALLAS — Patrick Sharp knows he’s in the last year of his contract, knows the Dallas Stars are a few losses away from becoming trade-deadline sellers, knows the Blackhawks are in the market for a top-line left wing and knows that people are talking.
But to use an expression native to his new home, this ain’t his first rodeo, either.
“I got a good dose of that my last year in Chicago, and I listened to the outside stuff,” Sharp said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I feel like I’ve learned from it. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it would have in the past. I’m happy to be in the hunt here with these guys. We’re within striking distance, and whatever people are going to talk about outside, I can’t control that. I can only control how I play within this organization.”
The injury-riddled Stars — a disappointment after winning the Central Division last year — have played much better of late and entered the game against the Hawks four points out of the second wild-card spot but with four teams to leapfrog. Like so many other teams in the league, the Stars are teetering on the edge of contention, which has greatly limited the trade market so far.
Sharp’s name has indeed come up in the Hawks’ inner circle, but given his $5.9 million cap hit — which forced his trade to the Stars after the 2015 Stanley Cup run in the first place — a team source described it as “a last resort.” But Sharp is focused on the Stars’ playoff push.
It’s an unusual feeling for Sharp to play in meaningful games in February. The last time he was on a team that really had to fight to get into the postseason was the 2010-11 season with the Hawks.
“Normally, it’s the dog days of the season, and you’re just trying to get to that playoff stretch drive,” Sharp said. “It’s a little different scenario for our team this year, as opposed to last. Last year, we were off to a great start and kind of cruising to the playoffs. This year, we’re fighting to get in.”
Sharp simply is glad to be contributing again. He suffered a concussion four games into the season, missed 14 games, came back for seven games, then missed 12 more before returning for good Dec. 31. Since his return, he has five goals and five assists in 15 games.
Sharp said he “probably rushed back a little too quickly.” The dizziness and motion-sickness-like symptoms lingered, but it wasn’t just a physical issue for Sharp, who thought he had dealt with a concussion in the past but never anything like this. He said Brent Seabrook helped him along with some good advice.
“It wasn’t so much the physical symptoms from the injury, it was more like the emotional side of it,” Sharp said. “I had a lot of anxiety about it, waiting to get back on the ice and play. It wasn’t a sprained knee that you have a timetable, it’s just a day-to-day thing where you’re hoping you can come out of it. I’m thankful that I did come out of it and happy to be back on the ice playing.”
And happy to be in Dallas, no matter what the near future holds. One thing is certain, though — the better the Stars play, the more likely he is to stay.
“Every point is valuable from now until the end of the season,” he said. “A good stretch of games can put you in or out of a playoff spot. It’s encouraging to know we’re within striking distance of the playoffs, based on what has happened this year with our team. We’re playing some good hockey as of late, and hopefully we can build off it and get some wins.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.