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Hawks seem reluctant to use Patrick Sharp at center

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Brunette (15) tries deflect shot past Nashville Predators goalie PekkRinne (35) Finlfirst period an NHL

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Brunette (15) tries to deflect a shot past Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35), of Finland, in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Updated: March 16, 2012 8:21AM



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Patrick Sharp is one of the best left wings in the league. But he also has been a better-than-serviceable center for the Blackhawks.

The Hawks won the Stanley Cup with Sharp as their second-line center, and it’s his ability to play multiple positions that makes him so valuable. But coach Joel Quenneville hasn’t used Sharp at center at all this season, even while testing a multitude of line combinations during the Hawks’ losing streak.

Is there any particular reason?

‘‘That’s a good question,’’ Quenneville said before the Hawks’ skid reached nine games with a 3-2 loss Tuesday to the Nashville Predators. ‘‘I think [Marcus Kruger] has done a decent job there [at second-line center]. It’s still an option.’’

Sharp is a natural winger, and he has had a standout season from the left side. But using him at center would give the Hawks some depth up the middle.

‘‘I don’t really think about it, to be honest with you,’’ said Sharp, who played on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane against the Predators. ‘‘We have a lot of different options there. I think [Kane] has done a good job, and different guys that have been used in that position have worked out well. Joel puts me where he thinks I’m most effective. I’m sure I’ll play in the middle sooner or later. That’s the coach’s call. I just play where I’m told.’’

Sharp, who said his fractured left wrist ‘‘has been good,’’ thinks he plays a ‘‘grittier style of game’’ at wing. The deciding factor for Quenneville in keeping Sharp at wing is that he leads the Hawks in shots.

‘‘We want pucks at the net,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s a shooter. That’s what his bread-and-butter is. The fact that he’s getting it through to the net, we know we need more traffic as a group, but he’s putting the puck in the right areas.’’

Getting the call

Defenseman Dylan Olsen said it’s tough being recalled during a losing streak. The 21-year-old rookie was paired with Duncan Keith for his fifth career NHL game Tuesday.

‘‘It’s good to get the call-up again,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘It’s a first experience for me. I’m just trying to deal with it the way I can and just keep positive. It’s obviously frustrating, and nobody likes to lose.’’

In and out

Injured defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador likely will stay in Chicago for the rest of the trip.

‘‘It’s tough to put a timeline on it or a date,’’ Quenneville said of
their statuses. ‘‘It’s kind of wait-and-see.’’

◆ Defenseman/enforcer John Scott was inserted into the lineup and played on the fourth line. Forwards Michael Frolik and Brendan Morrison were healthy scratches.



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