Patrick Sharp remained on the Johnny’s IceHouse West ice long after his teammates had gone to the locker room. Beside him was a large bucket of pucks. The puck-to-stick sound resonated, one shot after another, through the arena during coach Joel Quenneville’s press conference.
For Sharp, it wasn’t any big deal, no reason to read into his extra time there.
“It was just a little practice,” he said. “I’ve done that a few times. Sometimes you get into the routine of practicing every day, and it’s nice to go out and work on some things you don’t usually get a chance to. I wasn’t tiring myself out, out there. Just stationary shooting.”
Be it “just a little practice” or working through some frustrations during a tough season, Sharp turned that target practice into two goals on Friday night. And that could be enough to get him going the rest of the postseason.
Sharp scored twice, his first two of this brief postseason, in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 victory over Minnesota in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series on Friday. It was a good night for the Blackhawks but an especially good one for Sharp, whose left-shoulder injury cost him a good deal of the already abbreviated regular season. Teammates say it should lead to bigger and better things in these playoffs.
“I think that first (goal), especially, was a nice play; a quick stick to get the puck and the backhander,” Duncan Keith said. “It’s good to see him score those goals. He’s a guy we’ve always relied on over the years to score big goals. To have him get a couple was nice to see. I’m sure he’s happy with them, too.”
The Blackhawks’ second line has the chance to do some great things in the playoffs. Sharp is healthy again, Patrick Kane has been stellar all season and Michal Handzus is the veteran center glue holding it all together. Kane said Sharp’s Game 2 performance should be a jumping-off point.
“It’s definitely a good start,” he said. “As a goal scorer, once one goes into the net you tend to get more chances and opportunities, and you see more go in. Ever since I’ve been here, he’s had the knack for finding open shots and scoring. That’s what we expect from him now.”
Bryan Bickell agreed.
“It’s been a frustrating year for him with injuries and such,” he said. “But confidence goes a long way in this game. And for him to have it right now is important for us.”
Sharp would’ve liked a healthier and more productive regular season. But as far as getting those two back now, there’s no time like the present.
“I’m sure he’s excited to be back, healthy, and ready to prove himself in the playoffs,” Kane said. “It’s something we expect from him, for sure.”