ST. LOUIS – It’s been a difficult season for Brent Burns. Could a major change in his role help to turn it around?
Tuesday night’s game in St. Louis was a good start for the defenseman-turned-forward. Burns tallied his first goal and point of the season with a quick one-timer from the high slot on a feed from Scott Gomez midway through the season period. He began the night on the third line with Gomez and James Sheppard, and finished on the top line with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
Burns registered three shots on goal in almost 19 minutes of ice time, and skated 2:41 on the power play.
“What a game he had,” Gomez said. “He was in the open spots, and that [goal] was all him. I saw him in the slot and threw it over to him, and it shows what kind of shot he has, and what quickness.”
[RECAP: Blues 4, Sharks 2]
McLellan used Burns as a forward in the AHL when both were with the Houston Aeros, Minnesota’s primary farm team, in 2004-05. Burns switched over to defense full time in 2007, but played there as recently as the 2008-09 season for a brief stretch. What did McLellan think of Burns’ first game as a forward with the Sharks?
“I saw what I expected from him. I’ve seen it before,” McLellan said. “He provided us size, speed and a shot up front. Played the game with – I don’t want to say a reckless abandon – but he played using his body, and attacked. I thought he provided our team a lot of energy. That was as good as we’ve been attacking in a long time, against a very good defensive team.”
For Burns, it was just his seventh game of the season. He missed the first 10 games due to a lower body injury after he had offseason sports hernia/groin surgery, and returned on Tuesday after a seven-game absence with an unrelated left leg injury suffered on Feb. 23 in Dallas. He was pulled from the lineup on Feb. 12 in Nashville after his first two games, and his misplay in Chicago on Feb. 22 led to the game-winning goal by Brandon Saad in the third period of a 2-1 loss.
When asked how he felt playing forward against the Blues, Burns preferred to discuss the Sharks’ effort in the 4-2 loss.
“I think we played well. [Forty one] shots on that team is a good game,” he said. “We played a lot in their zone, a lot of shots, and it will come. If we play like that, we’ll win a lot of games.”
[RELATED: Better effort, nothing to prove it]
Thornton welcomed Burns to his line late in the second period, when Burns took the place of Tommy Wingels.
“I’d play with him all year. He’s big, strong, handles the puck,” Thornton said. “Yeah, I’d love to play with him all year, he’s great.”
Burns, too, felt comfortable on that line.
“He’s probably got a comfort level with everybody. He’s that good,” Burns said of the Sharks’ captain. “And, obviously, Cooch is one of the best players in the league now. It’s a joy to play with those guys. I think we were in their end a lot of the game. Big bodies, I think we play a hard style. I felt good.”