By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Patrick Sharp can’t remember the last time his knees were shaking before a hockey game. He’s 34 years old, in his 14th NHL season and was nervous like a 20-year-old rookie.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Rounding Out The Warmest Weekend Of The Winter
Thursday night at the United Center was no ordinary hockey game for Sharp. It was his first regular-season game back in Chicago since being dealt to Dallas in a cap-clearing move this past July. Playing in front of a sellout crowd that he helped reward with three Stanley Cup hoists in the span of six seasons brought back memories.
When Jim Cornelison belted out the words of our Star-Spangled Banner and the United Center roared along, Sharp stood on the blue line and took a deep breath. He wasn’t ready for this.
“Funny,” Sharp said, “I haven’t felt that way in a long time.”
Sharp’s Stars left Chicago with a 4-2 win over the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks. Now, Dallas sits just one point behind Chicago in second place.
The Stars brought in Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Stephen Johns in an attempt to become like the Blackhawks. Now, they appear poised for a fight into the playoffs with their rivals. Afterward, with the two points in hand, Sharp was able to take in the atmosphere and appreciate his 10 seasons in Chicago.
On the opposite bench, the Blackhawks took in the moment of Sharp’s return, too. It was bittersweet for some.
“Brings back good memories,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “Obviously, we miss those friends and those teammates. They’re doing well, they’re playing well. They have a good team and a good city around them. But, obviously, we’d love to have those guys still in this room. In a way, it’s kind of tough to see.”
Sharp wasn’t listed in the box score of the Stars’ victory. He’s mired in a slump, without a goal in 14 games. While he has 40 points (16 goals and 24 assists) in 54 games, the season has been difficult at times.READ MORE: MISSING: Khoshaba Dikyanos, 84, Last Seen In Lincoln Square
The Blackhawks’ move of Sharp was the first for any player from “The Core,” sending away a man who was so crucial to the team’s success. He turned 34 in December and was the most movable part of the roster. Loud cheers greeted his name in the starting lineup, his first touch of the puck and a video montage of his career in Chicago.
“It was very special,” Sharp said. “First class by a first-class organization. I enjoyed my 10 years here in Chicago.”
Dallas has grown to appreciate Sharp the way Chicago did for a decade, and he’s enjoyed the change in scenery. He’s part of a young team that’s rising with the hopes of dethroning his old team.
Playing in Dallas is a new challenge for Sharp, but he’s embraced it, and the Stars have embraced him, too.
“He’s made us a better-looking team,” joked Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “He’s a great veteran. He’s been there, done that. People listen to him. He does the right things. He works hard and brings some great skill, too. It’s been a great addition.”
Sharp’s having that same veteran impact with the Stars that he brought to the Blackhawks. He’s helped solidify a roster primed for a Stanley Cup push of its own.
The knees were shaky for Sharp in the early onset of Thursday’s game, but then he settled in. After all, two important points were on the line. The Stars took the latest match with the Blackhawks. There could be more reunions ahead.
“We’re getting better,” Sharp said. “We feel like if we want to get to the place that we want to be, a team like Chicago is going to be in our way at the end of the season. It’s just one game, many more battles down the road. It should get more and more intense as we go.”MORE NEWS: Chicago Speed Cameras To Start Issuing $35 Tickets To Drivers Going 6 MPH Over The Limit On Monday