NHL

Sharp, Toews return as 'Hawks meet rival

Hockey Primetime Jim Diamond
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Some time off and a big rival on the schedule were the ingredients for the return of Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews to the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Sharp, who has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since January 8, missed Chicago's last eight games. At the time of the injury, the team said that he was expected to miss three to four weeks. Sharp scored his 20th goal of the season in the Jan. 8 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. In addition to the 20 goals, Sharp had 20 assists when he was sidelined.

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that Sharp's upper-body injury was actually a broken bone in his left wrist that occurred when he was slashed by Detroit's Jiri Hudler while scoring that 20th goal.

"It's a little bit faster (to return) but it's ready to go so I'm going to play," Sharp told the Tribune after Tuesday's morning skate. "I'm ready to go. I feel great. I'm excited to play in this building. It's good to be back. I can't wait to get going."

There is a possibility that Sharp may require postseason surgery on the wrist.

Toews missed final game prior to the All-Star break against the Nashville Predators, also with what the team called an upper-body injury. Named to the All-Star team, Toews was unable to participate due to the injury. It was the third time he was named to the All-Star team in his young NHL career.

Chicago's captain entered Tuesday night's action tied for second in the NHL in goals scored with 27. A week off provided the Blackhawks' stars time to heal their injuries, but having the Canucks on the schedule provided a little extra motivation for Toews and Sharp to get back into the fold.

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The Blackhawks and Canucks have met each other in the playoffs three consecutive seasons, fostering one of the league's better recent rivalries. In both 2009 and 2010, the Blackhawks topped the Canucks in the Western Conference Semifinals in six hard-fought games. Last season, the two met in the first round in what turned into a series with distinct momentum swings. After rushing out to a 3-0 series lead, the Canucks eventually won the series in overtime of Game 7 to advance.

Central Division notes:

Well ahead of the NHL's Feb. 27 trade deadline, the Blackhawks added depth at center when they acquired Brendan Morrison from the Calgary Flames in exchange for prospect defenseman Brian Connelly. Morrison, a product of the University of Michigan, came to Chicago with 923 regular-season NHL games of experience plus another 58 playoff games on his resume. ... On the very day an organized fan protest took place at Columbus' Nationwide Arena, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that Columbus would be the host for the 2013 All-Star Game. "The Blue Jackets are honored to host the 2013 All-Star Celebration in Columbus as we believe our city offers a truly unique setting for this special event," Blue Jackets majority owner John P. McConnell said. "As much as it is a showcase for the NHL's best players, it is also a celebration of hockey fans and having it in Columbus is a testament to the fantastic support of our fans and the strength of Central Ohio as a hockey market." This will be the first time Columbus will host the All-Star Game. ... Detroit traveled to Calgary on Tuesday for their first post-All-Star weekend game. The Red Wings and the Flames participated in a pregame ceremony honoring Brad McCrimmon. McCrimmon played and coached in both Calgary and Detroit. He was the head coach of the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, and was among the 43 players, coaches and staff members killed when the team's charter plane crashed last September. ... Nashville G Pekka Rinne was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week for the All-Star break shortened last week. That might not be the only league accolade he receives. After defeating the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, Rinne closed out January with a record of 11-1-0. With Tuesday's win, Rinne extended his franchise-high win streak to 10 games... In their final game before the break, the St. Louis Blues fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. The Blues are 9-0-2 against the Eastern Conference this season. St. Louis is the only NHL team to record at least one standings point in every game against the other conference.

Tagged: Flames, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Canucks, Predators, Patrick Sharp, Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Toews

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