Burns could debut for Sharks Saturday
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SAN JOSE – Sharks defenseman Brent Burns is “getting real close” to returning to the lineup, coach Todd McLellan said on Friday.

Burns was paired with Brad Stuart for the duration of the hour-long skate at Sharks Ice. McLellan deemed him a full participant.

“It’s an indication he’s getting closer. I think the better indicator is the amount of participation of him in practice in comparison to other weeks,” McLellan said. “He was physical today, he did every drill, [and] he was involved in the power play and penalty kill part of it.”

The Sharks host the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday at HP Pavilion at 1 p.m. Could Burns, who had offseason sports hernia/groin surgery, make his season debut?

“I don’t know. That may be pushing it,” McLellan said.

Stuart was asked if he expects Burns to play against the Coyotes.

“That’s usually how it works,” he said. “The day before the game I’m sure they’d like to have the pairs the same as the are in practice, but things can change, so I don’t know.”

If Burns and Stuart are a pair, either on Saturday or at some point during the six-game road trip, Stuart knows there will be an adjustment period. So far, the veteran d-man has been paired primarily with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Burns and Vlasic play different styles – one of Burns’ biggest assets is jumping into the offensive zone, while the steady Vlasic tends to be more of a defensive defenseman.

“I’ve just got to be aware of what he’s doing,” Stuart said of Burns. “I haven’t played with him yet, so it will be a little bit of a learning process for myself, also. I’ll just try to be as aware as I can of what he’s doing, and what he wants to do, and try to adjust.”

Communication will be key.

“If you’re talking and communicating, you’ve got to do that from the start. You’ve got to be pretty precise and clear what you want, and that will make it easier. As you become more comfortable with each other, sometimes you’ll be able to make plays without having to talk. You’ll just know what’s going to happen.

“That’s not going to happen right off the bat, so you have to make sure right from the start that you’re talking and communicating as best you can.”

If Burns does play, the Sharks will have to sit two healthy defensemen. On Friday, the remaining defensive pairs were Vlasic – Dan Boyle; Jason Demers – Justin Braun; and Douglas Murray – Matt Irwin.

The Sharks’ coaching staff, including associate coach Larry Robinson and assistants Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft, will discuss the matter internally and decide who should play and who should sit. The Sharks would have to make a roster move, too, as Burns is still on injured reserve and the team has a full 23-man roster.

“The unfortunate part of it is when you have eight healthy, two of them have to watch,” McLellan said. “We’ve got to make tough decisions.”

Robinson and Johnson are the newcomers, and may have a different perspective than McLellan and Woodcroft.

“Jay and I have a vision and a belief in what some guys have done in the past, but the great thing about it is with Jim and Larry here, they only know them during this [season]. There’s equity earned based on that,” McLellan said.

“There’s back and forth. I think it’s healthy like that. We come to an agreement, and away we go. But, we debate it.”

The debate could be heating up.

Desjardins sidelined

Andrew Desjardins was the only Sharks player missing from Friday’s practice. His absence had nothing to do with his collision with Jamal Mayers on Tuesday, though. Instead, he’s got the “sniffles,” according to McLellan.

Dan Boyle missed two of the last five games with the flu, so the Sharks could be seeing a bug making its way through the team. That’s not good with a six-game road trip on the horizon.