SAN JOSE – When the Sharks were in the midst of their scoring doldrums, at one point sinking to last in the league in goals per game, head coach Todd McLellan shuffled the deck with his forwards on what sometimes seemed like a daily basis.
Lately, he’s turned up a pair of aces in Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns, both of whom have had their roles altered recently. Each scored their third goal in as many games and goalie Antti Niemi did the rest in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at HP Pavilion.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks 2, Red Wings 0]
In the worst scoring slump of his career, going eight games without a point, Pavelski was shifted to third-line center before the Sharks’ game in Anaheim on Monday. He’s scored a first period goal in every game since, including against the Red Wings, when his wraparound attempt bounced in off of Niklas Kronwall’s skate.
It was the 10th goal for Pavelski, who tied for the team lead with a career-high 31 last season. It was one of those bounces that neither he, nor the Sharks, were getting from February through mid-March.
“It’s one of those things when they come, you welcome them and move on,” Pavelski said.
As for Burns, the defenseman made headlines around the league when he returned from a leg injury on March 12 in St. Louis to skate up front. He scored a goal in that game against the Blues and has never looked back. He has five goals and five assists in the nine games total as a forward.
Joe Thornton set him up on Thursday after taking advantage of a giveaway by Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff in the Sharks' offensive zone. Burns unleashed a high shot over Jimmy Howard’s glove for a key insurance goal in the third period.
Burns said: “When you’re contributing, it makes the game fun. It’s been a good time.”
Pavelski and Burns sure are making their head coach look pretty good, eh Todd?
“I don’t know if they’re making the head coach look good, they’re competing hard and getting rewarded for it,” McLellan said. “More importantly, the team is getting rewarded for it.”
Although the Sharks didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard on Thursday, the four forward lines were all effective at times throughout the tight-checking affair, in which open ice was at a premium.
That’s a result of a more balanced attack, and the fact that the Sharks have the last change at home and can get the matchups they want before the faceoff.
McLellan said: “The way the lines are set up – a very good night from [Scott] Gomez’s line again tonight, they were very effective – some of the matches we can use here at home, put us in certain advantages at times.”
“You can see that every line is going out, working the puck down low, getting the chances,” Burns said. “It’s fun to be a part of.”
The matchups were the correct ones against Detroit, which entered with a five-game road winning streak and had been shut out just one in its last 32 games.
Thornton said: “The four lines have been going really, really well. It doesn’t matter who they put on the ice, we feel comfortable with whoever goes on the ice for us. I think that’s going to be the key, is a balanced attack.”
“Guys have come to the conclusion that we need to play a certain way to be successful,” McLellan said. “Each of the lines is doing that. Guys are doing what they’re supposed to do, [and] we’re getting good goaltending. A lot of these nights we’ve talked about not scoring enough, two was enough tonight because we did a lot of the other things right.”