Veteran Patrick Sharp embracing more limited role with Blackhawks
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Maybe at another stage of his career, maybe in another city, Patrick Sharp would bristle at this role — third-liner, veteran mentor, power-play specialist.
Maybe when he was younger and the stat sheet mattered more to him, Sharp would stew more about his ice time or about his points drought.
But with age and strife comes perspective and wisdom. Sharp has been around long enough to know how fortunate he is to be in the city and organization he loves. And he has been around long enough to know that, if he keeps plugging away, the goals and points will come.
‘‘It’s a long season,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘It is frustrating, individually and from a team standpoint, when things aren’t going your way. But you’ve got to recognize that it’s a six-month regular season, 82 games, and you’re going to have your ups and downs. It’s important to stay focused, stay patient and keep getting better.’’
Sharp, who has two goals and two assists through 12 games, is a microcosm of the Blackhawks right now. He’s mired in a scoring drought — no points in his last six games — but thinks he’s on the verge of breaking through.
Before the Hawks’ loss Saturday to the Avalanche, in which just about everybody had a bad night, Sharp had 10 shots on goal in a two-game span against the Golden Knights and Predators. He knows the opportunities are there and thinks the bounces — and goals — will come.
‘‘I feel like I’m a little more aggressive with the puck,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘The feeling-out process should be well over by now, and I’m just trying to get comfortable. I think [Artem Anisimov] and I have taken better strides playing together, but we’re still looking for some production.’’
For most of Sharp’s career with the Hawks, he has been a star player — a four-time 30-goal scorer, a fixture in the top six, an alternate captain. And the one time he was consistently a ‘‘third-liner’’ came during the 2015 playoffs on a difference-making line with fellow offensive standouts Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen.
His role is different now. He has been on the third line since the first day. And while he’s still on the power play, Sharp has played fewer than 15 minutes in eight of the last 10 games. Since his first full season with the Hawks in 2007-08, he never averaged fewer than 16:49 per game.
But there have been no complaints from Sharp, no sulking. He has embraced the new role and gladly has taken 19-year-old rookie winger Alex DeBrincat — a sharpshooter much like himself — under his wing.
‘‘I trust in the coaching staff to put everybody into a situation to best succeed as a team,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘So I’ve never once looked at the [stat] sheet after a game and complained or been pumped about high ice time.’’
Two seasons with the Stars, including an injury-riddled 2016-17 campaign that saw him miss two separate months with a concussion and ended in hip surgery, have put things in perspective for Sharp, who hasn’t hidden how thrilled he is to be back in Chicago.
‘‘As players, accepting a different role as your career goes on is all part of it,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Sharpie’s had a good attitude right from day one.’’
Sharp is healthy, happy and comfortable in his role. But he’ll feel even better if and when the goals start to come.
‘‘I feel comfortable being back in Chicago, playing with my friends and teammates in the organization I want to play for,’’ he said. ‘‘But I want to be able to contribute at a high level. That’s why I came back here. I didn’t just come back to put the jersey on; I wanted to come back and have a good season. Hopefully, I’m on my way.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.