Nov 2, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) during the second period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Sharp will be making his return to the ice after missing the last 14 games due to a knee injury he suffered on November 4 against the Montreal Canadiens. With the Chicago Blackhawks currently on a hot streak and comfortable with their current lines, everyone has begun to question where Sharp fits in the lineup. The way it looks, Coach Quenneville will be bumping Daniel Carcillo down to the 4th line and inserting Patrick Sharp into the left wing position on the 3rd line. With that move taking place I would like to look at the 3 things to watch for during Patrick Sharp’s return.
Playing a new position
Not only is Patrick Sharp used to playing on the 1st line with Jonathan Toews but he also is used to playing in the left wing position. Today against the New Jersey Devils he will be playing on the 3rd line in the right wing position, Andrew Shaw will center the line, and Bryan Bickell will play the right wing. This is mainly because Coach Q does not want to shake up anything that is currently going good for the top two lines that have been on fire as of late. It is never a bad thing to have too much talent. This will give players the opportunity to compete for spots higher up on the lines and force them to produce if they want for ice time. Patrick Sharp is also an elite player so he could ultimately be placed anywhere and still do a good job. So keep an eye on how it works out for him on the 3rd line.
What type of roll does he serve?
With Patrick Sharp being away from the team for 14 games, it has created bigger roles for some of the younger players on the team during both 5 on 5 hockey and on the power play. Coach Quenneville is doing the right thing by easing Patrick Sharp back into the lineup and letting him get comfortable again on the ice at NHL speed. Sharp says he is past the injury physically and mentally so hopefully he can play the same hockey he was before the injury and increase his ice time as he finds his comfort zone. Having a play with his skill on the 3rd line could be very beneficial for both him and the team. Coach Quenneville had also mentioned as Sharp begins to skate more out there and improve he would begin to possibly use him more on the power play. It never hurts to rotate your skilled players around so that there are fresh legs on the ice. Let’s see how many games it is before Quenneville shuffles him into the bigger mix of things and maybe even rotates him and Saad if he gets hot.
Added depth on 4th line
With the return of Patrick Sharp that meant that someone would have to drop to a lower line. The odd man out was Daniel Carcillo who has played some great hockey since his return to the Chicago Blackhawks organization. Playing in 17 games so far he has scored 3 goals and 2 assists with a +3 rating. Those are just a few extra benefits of his play though; he has most importantly contributed with his physical side of the game. He pesters the other players and goaltenders and works hard at it. With his game going well it now brings added depth to the 4th line. The Sharp return will let the Blackhawks roll out their 3rd and 4th line with more confidence and gives them the advantage vs teams who may not have as good players deep in their lines. Daniel Carcillo is not a very demanding player either, he just wants to be out on the ice and help the team wherever he is needed. This 4th line of Carcillo, Kruger, and Smith is going to be very gritty and I can’t wait to see what kind of results they bring to the table. Carcillo will complement this line very nicely.
Let’s hope that Patrick Sharp returns to the ice in top shape and has no trouble adjusting back to the game. With the Blackhawks doing as well as they have been recently they probably gave him more time to heal from the injury since his need was not urgent. The key is having him at the end of the season pushing for the playoffs. If you can remember jot these 3 things down and take a look back at them in a week and then in a month to see what happened. They could be the important things in the continued success of the Blackhawks into the new year.
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