Brent Burns

Burns insurance? Sharks recall his former partner before road trip

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USATSI

Burns insurance? Sharks recall his former partner before road trip

If a Monday roster move serves as any kind of a prediction, the Sharks may be without reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns for at least part of their upcoming road trip. 

San Jose recalled defenseman Paul Martin from the AHL Barracuda on Monday. Martin’s recall means the Sharks are carrying eight defensemen on the road trip, something they've not done since Martin cleared waivers in mid-January. 

It's also a sign that Burns' injury isn't just a one-game ailment. 

Burns left early in the third period of Sunday's win over the Dallas Stars, and did not return. Although Burns' teammates expressed confidence he would not miss any time, head coach Peter DeBoer did not have an update on the defenseman's status in his postgame press conference. 

But the mere presence of Martin, who was waived last month after the emergence of rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan pushed him down the depth chart, indicates the Sharks are likely hedging against the possibility Burns will miss time.  San Jose can ill afford to have the 32-year-old to miss any extended time, as he leads the team in points (50), assists (40), shots on goal (246), and the Sharks only held a three-point lead (with a game in hand) on second place in the Pacific Divsion entering Monday. 

Before Burns' injury, the Sharks carried Tim Heed as their seventh defensemen. Heed has scored 11 points in 28 NHL games this season, but has only played one game with the Sharks, and 9:18 in that game, since Jan. 14. 

In 14 AHL games since he was waived, Martin has posted an assist and five shots on goal. He told reporters last month that his first choice was to stay with the Sharks, but was willing to go elsewhere if his agent, Ben Hankinson, and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson could work out potential trade destinations. 

If Martin plays on the road trip, it would serve as a timely showcase. The NHL's trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 26 -- a day after the final game of the Sharks' four-game road trip. 

In order to clear a spot on the 23-man roster for Martin and recalled forward Rudolfs Balcers, San Jose also placed forwards Tomas Hertl and Joel Ward on injured reserve, and they join injured center Joe Thornton. If Burns also does not play on Tuesday, the Sharks will be without three of their five-leading scorers. 

Burns leaves Sharks win early in third period

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AP

Burns leaves Sharks win early in third period

The Sharks are already down two of their five leading scorers. They skated to a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars on Sunday without Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl, although the latter participated in the morning skate. 

Now, they could also be without their leading scorer. 

Defenseman Brent Burns skated his final shift against Dallas early in the third period, and did not return. Head coach Peter DeBoer did not have an update on Burns' status, but told reporters after the game that it was related to the same ailment that caused Burns to leave practice early on Saturday.

San Jose's largely tread water since Thornton went down, going 6-5-1 since Jan. 25, including two wins in two games without Hertl. Losing the reigning Norris Trophy winner, however, may prove to be one injury too many. 

Burns has paced the Sharks with 50 points (10 goals, 40 assists), and was ninth in the league in average ice time (25:22) entering Sunday. San Jose is currently carrying Tim Heed as its seventh defenseman, but Heed has only played in one game since Jan. 13. 

DeBoer told reporters that he expected Burns would travel on San Jose's upcoming four-game road trip. Defenseman Justin Braun, as well as captain Joe Pavelski, told reporters after Sunday's win that they were confident Burns would not miss any time.

"He'll be fine," Braun said. "He's just dealing with something, but he'll be fine. He's that way -- he won't miss a game."

The Rookie and the Wookiee: Ryan bringing out the best defensively in Burns

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USATSI

The Rookie and the Wookiee: Ryan bringing out the best defensively in Burns

Rookie defensemen Joakim Ryan took a page out of defensive partner Brent Burns’ playbook in Saturday night’s 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

He scored not once, but twice, and became the first Sharks blueliner other than Burns to score two goals in a game since Justin Braun on Mar. 28, 2016. His second goal, the eventual game-winner, was downright Burnsian.

The 24-year-old joined the rush, fired a hard wrist shot at Oilers goaltender Al Montoya, and had the wherewithal to not only follow up his own rebound, but bury it. If he was six inches taller, 50 pounds heavier, right-handed, and (even more) bearded, Ryan would have been a dead ringer for the reigning Norris Trophy winner.

If Burns has rubbed off on Ryan offensively, the rookie’s done the same to his partner defensively. That may sound strange, considering the Sharks have been outscored 53-30 with Burns on the ice in five-on-five situations, but he’s been far better alongside ryan than away from him.

In just over 478 five-on-five minutes without Ryan, Burns has been on the ice for 12 goals-for and 34 goals-against, according to Natural Stat Trick. In about 525-and-a-half minutes together, Ryan and Burns have been outscored by a single goal: 18-19.

When Burns plays with Ryan, the Sharks attempt a greater share of five-on-five shots (54.84 corsi-for percentage), generate more scoring chances (53.50 percent), and more high-danger chances (50.25 percent) than their opponents. While the Wookiee plays without the rookie, San Jose allows two more goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (4.27) than when they’re together (2.17).

Burns sans Ryan also gives up a higher rate of shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, and high-danger chances. He’s by no means perfect alongside the New Jersey-born Swede, as Burns remains susceptible to the same head-scratching gaffes that have plagued his game all season. But, the chaos is far more controlled with Ryan.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer seemed to realize this coming out of the team’s bye week about a month ago, reuniting the duo in the middle of a Jan. 13 win over the Arizona Coyotes. They were reunited for good in the next game, and Burns has only played 37:10 in five-on-five situations away from Ryan over the last 14 games.

Together, they’ve outscored opponents at five-on-five 12-9 during said stretch. The Sharks will need to continue to utilize their chemistry Sunday evening against the Anaheim Ducks, as well as beyond.

Including Saturday, San Jose in the midst of a four-game stretch against teams on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. The Ducks are the only team over that span within two points of a playoff spot as of this writing.

It’s a real opportunity for the Sharks to establish some solid footing in the race for a postseason spot. Minimizing Burns’ defensive mistakes is necessary for a successful run.

As long as he continues to play with Ryan, though, there’s far less reasons to worry.