ST. PAUL, Minn. – Patrick Sharp has been itching to get back into the lineup for weeks now, but that shoulder just wasn’t quite ready.
It is, and he is, ready now.
Sharp will play for the first time since his March 6 injury, and Ray Emery will get his third consecutive start when the Chicago Blackhawks play the Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center. For Sharp, who’s missed 14 games, it’s been a long and frustrating wait.
“I could skate and shoot pretty well in two weeks, then it was two or three more weeks (of waiting) to take contact and a few other things to allow me to play,” he said. “You can shoot pucks and skate well, but there’s so much more that goes into it. But as far as the doctor’s time frame, I’m right there.”
Emery was a bit of a surprise selection for tonight’s game, although he is coming off two consecutive victories over Nashville, including a shutout there on Saturday.
[MORE: Blackhawks take on Wild tonight]
“It gives him a little more based on how he’s playing. Get him some consecutive games as well and see how he handles it,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who added Corey Crawford is expected to play soon.
“Crawford will be in here this week; getting a couple practices is good for him as well,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got 10 games left, so both guys will be playing as we go along. It’s a good situation. We’re comfortable with both guys and both are playing well.”
Sharp’s return is an obvious boost for a Blackhawks team that just wants to maintain consistency these final 10 regular-season games. The Blackhawks didn’t run line combinations this morning, but Sharp will probably be back on the second line with Patrick Kane and, in Dave Bolland’s absence, Marcus Kruger.
“Sharp can boost the whole lineup, from 5-on-5 play, to power play to penalty kill. It’s a huge boost for sure,” Kane said. “We’re looking at 10 games left in the season, it’s a big chance for us. Pretty much everyone’s healthy; we’ll get Bolland back soon, hopefully. It’s perfect timing going into the playoffs to keep getting better.”
The wait is over for Sharp. And 10 games remaining gives him time to get back in his rhythm.
“I’m healthy and ready to go,” Sharp said. “Whenever you miss one game, you’re itching to get back into the lineup. Enough is enough. I’m excited to be back.”