By Chris Kuc
Patrick Sharp is fully aware of what’s coming Tuesday.
The Blackhawks winger knows that is when Team Canada will announce its roster for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the Winnipeg native yearns to be among the 25 players named.
While that certainly has been motivation to play well this season, there are other factors that have spurred Sharp to take his game to another level, including more responsibility and ice time on the top line from coach Joel Quenneville.
“My priority right now is the Hawks and that’s the way it has been all season,” Sharp said Friday night after scoring his second hat trick in five games to lead the Hawks to a 5-3 victory over the Devils at the Prudential Center. “You hear stuff about yourself as a player that kind of motivates you so there’s a little extra incentive to play well but I’m getting a bigger opportunity from Joel and the coaching staff this year and I want to make sure I show them I’m worth it.”
A byproduct of that desire has been the eye-popping numbers that will make it very difficult for Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman to ignore Sharp when Canada defends its gold medal in February. In his last 13 games, Sharp has 14 goals and seven assists and now ranks second in the NHL with 25 goals.