Ray Emery posts 3rd shutout in five starts as Blackhawks top Wild 1-0
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com April 9, 2013 9:41PM
Updated: April 10, 2013 1:49PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — There was Patrick Sharp, firing away, manning the point on the power play, winning faceoffs and making an instant impact. There was Marian Hossa, prowling around the crease, whacking away at loose pucks, intercepting a pass in the high slot and rifling a shot through a helpless goaltender.
The Hawks are almost whole again. And that could be a wholly terrifying thought for the rest of the NHL.
For the first time since March 6 — 14 games ago; so long ago that the Hawks were just wrapping up their 24-game, season-opening point streak — the Hawks had all the big guns in their arsenal. And while their 1-0 victory Tuesday over the Minnesota Wild was hardly a high-octane shootout, Sharp and Hossa played key roles. Ray Emery posted his third shutout in five starts, and the Hawks improved to 5-0-1 in their last six.
Oh, and the Hawks are 22-0-3 when Sharp is in the lineup, but who’s counting?
“My timing was a little off, but for the first game back I felt great,” said Sharp, who hadn’t played since hurting his left shoulder on a hit along the boards by the Colorado Avalanche’s Ryan O’Byrne on March 6. “And it was nice to jump into another team win.”
Sharp gave the Hawks a scare late in the third period when he tumbled awkwardly into the boards — left shoulder first — after getting hit from behind by the Wild’s Ryan Suter. He was in obvious pain on the bench but said he was fine after the game.
“Just a little stinger,” he said. “Nothing crazy. I’m all right.”
He certainly looked all right. He delivered a hit on his first shift, fired five shots at Nicklas Backstrom in the first two periods and won 6 of 9 faceoffs. Sharp took the draws for Marcus Kruger before returning to his natural spot at left wing. It’s a possible solution to the Hawks’ longtime second-line center woes, even when Dave Bolland returns from injury (possibly this week).
“Sure, I like taking draws,” said Sharp, who added that he’d be fine with a move to center (his position during the Hawks’ Stanley Cup run in 2010). “I’ll play wherever they tell me to play. I don’t care, to be honest with you. I’ve played half and half my whole career — center, wing. I’ll do what the coach tells me.”
While Sharp returned to the ice, Hossa returned to the scoresheet. In his fourth game back after missing six games with a shoulder injury, Hossa scored the lone goal, his 14th, jumping on a bad pass by Clayton Stoner in the high slot and firing a shot past Backstrom (30 saves). Hossa had another goal waved off when the referee lost sight of the puck under Backstrom before Hossa smacked it in during the first period.
About the only thing that went wrong in this one was when an errant puck bonked Quenneville in the head. The Hawks coach denied rumors that he’s day-to-day with an “upper-body injury.”
“I don’t think you can hurt it anyways,” he smirked, patting the top of his head.
With nine games and less than three weeks left in the season, the Hawks are in the midst of their best stretch since the big point streak, and they appear to be gaining momentum as they gain back big pieces of their team.
“We feel pretty good about our team right now,” Hossa said. “Even the fifth line — there’s some great players, and they don’t get in the lineup. I think we are pretty strong up front, the defense played great and the goalies — Ray played unreal the last three games, and when Corey [Crawford] is in net, he plays great, too. So far, we are pleased.”