That's one Sharp kid

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

This season he's been more dangerous killing penalties than he has on the power play. Actually, Patrick Sharp has been pretty dangerous every time he's on the ice.

Heading into last night's game against the Edmonton Oilers, the Chicago Blackhawks forward leads his team with 23 goals this season - six of which have come on the power-play and a league-high seven scored while short-handed.

He added his seventh power play goal and 24th of the season in a 4-1 loss to the Oilers last night.

"We felt last year the way he finished that he was going to have a good season this year," said Chicago Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard.

"We've seen his confidence grow from last year in the last 40 games. He's a pretty good leader for us. He's a quiet leader. We like him, his teammates like him, he leads on and off the ice."

Sharp, 26, is in his third season with the Blackhawks. Originally a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, he was acquired in a trade in December 2005.

This season has been the most productive offensively of his career, already setting highs in goals and points.

"He comes to work," Savard said. "There are a lot of things that you don't see that we see when he comes to the rink. We had a pretty solid practice in San Jose the other day and we had some extra guys that had to do some extra skating and he jumped right in there with him. That's a sign of a leader to me."

BUILDING OFF OF LAST YEAR

Last season, in his first full year with the Blackhawks, Sharp scored 20 goals and added 15 assists in 80 games. It was the first time he'd reached the 20-goal plateau in his NHL career. He had scored 23 goals during the lockout season with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

"I kind of expected this," Sharp said prior to last night's game. "This is my fourth season in the National Hockey League and I feel like I've gotten better every year and I can still get a lot better in the years to come. I've worked hard over the summer to get in better shape and develop physically. I worked a lot on my shot and skating."

A native of Thunder Bay, Ont., Sharp played junior hockey in his hometown before heading to the University of Vermont. He left school after being drafted by the Flyers and spent three years in their organization.

Eventually he was traded to Chicago along with Eric Meloche in exchange for Matt Ellison and a third-round pick.

"I was very happy about the trade," he said. "I enjoyed Philadelphia, I developed through their minor league system. But Chicago gave me an opportunity to play at the NHL level. They brought me in here and gave me a ton of ice time, probably more than I deserved in the early go. I feel like I owe something to the organization for doing that."

Sharp has developed into one of the team's most dangerous players, even though the Hawks lineup boasts the likes of Robert Lang, Martin Havlat, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

MORE OF A LEADER

This season the Blackhawks were predicted to have a young, exciting team. However, they were not expected to contend for a playoff spot. Yet heading down the stretch they find themselves just a short winning streak away from jumping back into the thick of the race.

"I've noticed it's gotten a lot tougher since probably Christmas," Sharp said.

"The road games are tough because you don't have that last change. But it's something that you have to deal with.

"I think it's a compliment more than anything and it's exciting to go up against other teams top defenders. I look at that as a challenge."


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