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.