PITTSBURGH – Now that it’s the end of May, the majority of the Sharks roster has spent the better part of the past nine months together, give or take a few days off or brief breaks.
So when a guy like Justin Braun goes through a day such as the one he had on Monday, losing his father-in-law, Tom Lysiak, to leukemia, and later having a rough Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, he can lean on his teammates for support.
“Yeah, 100 percent,” Joel Ward said. “We’ve got a strong group in here. I think that’s what’s carried us for so long. We’ve got a good group in here, a good bunch of guys. We’re a close-knit family group.”
Joe Pavelski said: “Something like that's never easy. As a teammate, you don't like to see anybody go through that. He handled it professionally. He showed up, played well. He knew it wouldn't be easy. It's one of those areas that you're never prepared for. Our thoughts are always with [Justin and his wife, Jessie] and their families.”
Braun wasn’t made available on Tuesday, but according to CSN’s Brodie Brazil, he was choked up when speaking to a group of reporters about it after Game 1.
Lysiak, 63, was a former NHL player for 13 seasons with the Atlanta Flames and Chicago Blackhawks.
"It's a hard thing to go through," Braun told NHL.com. "[I] would have liked to put a better effort out. Just have to separate that and come out and play a little better."
Regarding Lysiak, Braun said: "He was great; full of life. Loved to hang out with the boys, hearing about the hockey days when he played. He was just one of the guys, loved hanging out. [He] was a great husband, a great father; was great to me, welcomed me into the family. It was a tough day."
In Game 1, Braun was victimized by Sidney Crosby on the Penguins’ second goal, when Crosby outraced Braun to a loose puck and was given time to set up Conor Sheary for a first period score, making it a 2-0 game at the time.
Throughout the game, though, it was evident that Braun was struggling. He finished with a minus-two rating, as well as a minus-eight rating in shot attempts, the worst mark among Sharks defensemen.
Coach Pete DeBoer said Braun would take a brief leave of absence from the team after Game 2. There are two days between that game and Game 3 in San Jose on Saturday.
“There's not much you can do. You feel for him,” DeBoer said. “He went out there, he battled for us under tough circumstances. I think we all appreciate it.”
Logan Couture said: “He came to the rink like a pro yesterday, played as hard as he could. I thought he did a great job; you feel for him and feel for his wife. We’ve heard a lot of great stories about Jessie’s dad.”