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DENVER – It would seem to be an odd duo: the 19-year old rookie, still getting his feet wet in NHL waters, paired with the unpredictable yet dangerous wild man that could be anywhere on the ice at any given moment.
Mirco Mueller and Brent Burns are showing signs of development, though, and played perhaps their best game as a defense pair in the Sharks’ 3-2 shootout win over the Avalanche on Tuesday night.
“When we look, we immediately go to chances for and against, and their ledger is getting stronger and stronger as the nights go on so that’s a real good sign,” coach Todd McLellan said after the game. “Mirco I think feels comfortable playing with Burnzie right now. The physicality part of it, skates with him. They’re a good pair. We like them.”
Mueller said: “I think we’re pretty different in the style we play. In the end, we think the game the same way so we help each other out. … We click on the ice.”
One play in particular on Tuesday seemed to show that the players are gaining that needed chemistry, in what was their seventh game as a pair.
Late in the second period with the game tied 1-1, Burns tried forcing a shot from just inside the blue line that was blocked by Matt Duchene at the point of contact. The speedy forward had an chance to race the other way on a potential breakaway, but Mueller read what was happening and snuffed it out before Duchene could get any separation.
“I think I’m just telling him really to risk something up front. At the blue line he can maybe try to dangle guys, or whatever. He knows how to play,” Mueller said, when asked about that play in particular. “But, I’ll just back him up. I think that’s my game. I never cheat on offense, I always cheat on defense. If a puck gets blocked or bounces, I’m usually the guy that’s back.”
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Burns said: “I feel good with him and I like playing with him. He’s doing a great job. He’s got a lot of patience and poise for a young guy."
Burns has not only become a fan favorite in San Jose, but has been arguably the team’s biggest weapon on offense. He’s tied with Patrick Marleau for the Sharks team lead in scoring, and leads all NHL defensemen with 12 points, four more than any other NHL blueliner (nine defenseman are all tied for second with eight points).
His transition from power forward last season to a player that general manager Doug Wilson has likened to the Kings’ Drew Doughty and Montreal’s P.K. Subban is trending in the right direction, and lately Burns hasn’t been caught out of position like he was a few games early on.
“I feel good with my game. You hear a lot during the summer about switching back and forth to D, I was always confident with the way I played before.
“The team wanted me to play forward and I felt confident there, but going back, [Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson] have been helping me a lot. I get to watch [Marc-Edouard Vlasic] every night, and [Justin Braun]. You learn a lot from those guys. I think it’s been good.”
“He’s getting better definitively. He looks comfortable on the blue line. Big, big part of our team right now.”