Sharp's play gives Blackhawks the edge

By:
From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)

CHICAGO --
Patrick Sharp isn't quite sure if he's now a tried and true center or simply a winger who had to move into the middle to balance out the Chicago Blackhawks' top two lines.

Throughout the regular season Sharp spent a lot of time at left wing on a line with
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but since Sharp can play center, coach Joel Quenneville has been playing him between Marian Hossa and Troy Brouwer in the playoffs.

Sharp doesn't care what position he plays as long as he produces, which he's doing at a point-per-game clip in the postseason. He has a career-high 15 points in 14 games, including the Blackhawks' first goal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.

This is all good news for the Sharp.

Prior to these playoffs, several pundits considered his $3.9 million cap hit harsh for the Blackhawks, a team that is right up against the salary-cap ceiling and could have some difficult decisions to make this summer. Many figure he would have to be on the trading block.

Sharp, though, is proving his value to the Blackhawks now with his versatility. He talked about his preference, the wing or center, Friday morning, as well touching on a few other topics. Here is a portion of what he had to say:

Q: Do you ever miss the wing?

Sharp:
"A little bit. I don't mind going back and forth and Joel (Quenneville) knows what he's doing and we have a pretty good thing going right now. I enjoy playing center, and especially when you play with a guy like Hoss (
Marian Hossa). I'll take that."

Q: It has to be good for you to show that versatility, that ability to be able to play a bunch of positions?

Sharp:
"Yeah, it's good to be able to play a few different positions. There are a couple of guys in here that can do that and it gives the coaches a little more flexibility with lineups. I have said many times that I don't care where I play as long as I'm contributing and being a big part of the team."

Q: If someone were to ask you, would you say you're a center or just a forward?

Sharp:
"I always just say forward now. I don't say winger because then I'll switch and play center. I'll stick with forward and that's fine with me."

Q: Are you looking forward to not having to do that fire drill with the line changes that you were doing in San Jose, considering you should be able to dictate that with the last change at home?

Sharp:
"Yeah, but you still have to be focused and still have to be sharp on the bench because you never know what is going to happen. It is a little easier getting the matchup when you're at home. We get the last change and Joel does a good job of finding it either way. We're at home, but we still have to be alert."

Q: Are you really starting to feel not so much the pressure but the city building up and getting behind you now?

Sharp:
"I don't think there is any added pressure. We've got expectations in this room and we feel we can achieve what we set out to do, but coming back to Chicago after being away for so long, we can definitely feel the vibe in the city that hockey is on everybody's mind and the fans want it just as bad as we do. We want to make sure we play our best at home."

Q: If you go around the city now you see Blackhawks flags lining the streets, stickers in the windows. The city has just become a Blackhawks town. It's great to see, but you have been here when it wasn't, so what is it like now to see this?

Sharp:
"Yeah, I can remember seeing those same places that had Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Bears flags up and you couldn't find a Blackhawks one. I think it's great. We're using it as a positive and it's fun to walk the streets and go home and hear the support from your friends and fans. You can only see it as an advantage."

Q: Are more people recognizing you now even with the beard?

Sharp:
"Yeah, and I think the beard helps because people say, 'What is that guy doing with that ugly beard? Oh, he must be a hockey player.' It's working to my advantage. I'll keep this thing as long as we're winning games."



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