DALLAS – It was the morning of March 27, and the Sharks were preparing to face the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion that night in the opener of a key seven-game homestand that could make or break their season.
Sharks forward Adam Burish stayed on the ice long after his teammates, many of which were already taking off their equipment or in the showers.
Even the zamboni came out to make its rounds, but Burish was seen having a long, and what appeared to be emotional discussion with Sharks assistant coach Jay Woodcroft right around the blue line.
Burish wouldn’t be playing that night. The winger, who signed a four-year, $7.4 million contract in the offseason, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
“I was pissed off about that. I wasn’t happy about that, and I don’t think that helped,” Burish said on Saturday. “I would never say it’s a good thing. But, it is what it is. It’s not something that still lingers on with me. It happened, it’s done. I’m going to continue to keep my game where it’s at.”
The 30-year-old has seemingly found his place back in the lineup. After missing the game against the Ducks and then one more the next night vs. Detroit, he’s played in each of the Sharks next eight games, on what has been a fairly effective fourth line. Lately, that’s primarily with Scott Gomez in the middle and Andrew Desjardins on the left wing.
He’s not exactly lighting up the scoreboard, as Burish has just one goal and two assists in 39 games, but he’s been more noticable. On Saturday against the Stars, a long shift by Gomez, Burish and Raffi Torres helped draw a penalty on Dallas that nearly led to goal, but Richard Bachman made a stellar pad save on Joe Pavelski. When things got testy at the end of the Sharks’ 2-1 loss, Todd McLellan sent Burish out to take the faceoff with two seconds left on the clock.
On April 7 against the Stars, he crashed the net hard and goaltender Kari Lehtonen took a jab at Burish’s head, which probably should have been a roughing minor. Two nights earlier, he dove in front of a Mike Cammalleri slap shot while the Sharks were shorthanded, stayed on the ice in pain, and eventually limped his way to the bench.
Those are the sorts of plays that weren’t happening nearly enough in Burish’s first two months with the Sharks.
“His game has to be played a certain way with a certain edge,” McLellan said. “We had to remind him of that, but from that point on it’s been a very hard, competitive, drag-everybody-in type game. That’s been a good thing for us.”
Burish said: “The last few weeks, I think my game’s been better. I’ve tried to bring more energy and a little more nastiness to my game, a little more in-your-face. Because of that, I think I’ve played better. I think I’ve been able to contribute more.”
A new player on a team that didn't have much turnover, the shortened training camp and absence of exhibition games made things tougher for Burish to incorporate himself into the Sharks, McLellan said.
“New player, shortened season, short training camp, coming in and adjusting to our group, it takes awhile to be integrated and emotionally attached.”
Burish said: “To be honest, the first couple games I thought I had it and I was going, and part of it was just trying to figure out on a new team what the coaching staff wants from me, and what they think they need from me.
“I think it’s a feeling out process with a new team and a new coaching staff that you don’t know real well. All of a sudden, the horn goes off and the season starts, and you’re just kind of going with a new group and don’t have time to talk a lot. I’m happy with where my game is at now.”
Burish is also one of the few Sharks that has his name on the Stanley Cup, going scoreless in 15 games during Chicago’s championship run in 2010.
“As we get closer to playoffs and the intensity ratchets up with more responsibility that I’m given, I think I can continue to up my game and up what I know I can bring, come playoff time,” he said.