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SAN JOSE –- Much like anyone else that has followed his first three years in a teal sweater, Brent Burns has difficulty determining just what position he'd like to play.
A strong case can be made that he should remain as a forward after his strong season and a half on Joe Thornton’s wing, including a 22-goal campaign in 2013-14.
An equally durable argument can be made that Burns should now slot in the void left by Dan Boyle on the right side of the blue line, where he was an All-Star with Minnesota in 2011.
“When it comes down to asking me what I want, it’s hard. I feel confident I could get 30 goals playing forward, but I also love the challenge of playing D and playing more than 20 minutes a game,” Burns said. “I love that challenge. I love being on the ice more. I think you control the game more as a defenseman than you do as a forward. It’s hard. Obviously I like both, and you have fun playing as a forward, too.”
Right now, he’s a defenseman again.
Team management made that decision in May, and despite some comments from teammates on the first day of camp that they wouldn't be surprised to see Burns shifted back to forward, coach Todd McLellan doesn’t seem to be considering it right now.
It will take some time for Burns to get acclimated to playing defense again. He’s currently paired with Scott Hannan, and they looked good together in an intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday at Sharks Ice.
“It will take him a little bit just to get comfortable there again,” McLellan said. “But, when I say a little bit, we’re not talking about Christmas. By the time we’re done with the exhibition season, he’ll be an All-Star defenseman again.”
Burns said: “It’s a little different so, yeah, there’ll be an adjustment period. Hanner helps, though.”
Burns has the luxury now of working with two former NHL defensemen who weren’t here in his first season in coaches Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson.
“To get to learn from two guys like that is going to be great. They’re both very different, too, so that helps,” Burns said. “You’re learning the same things, but kind of two different ways. I’m looking forward to that, I think. I feel pretty confident playing D, and having those two minds that I can pick at can only help.”
After showcasing his ability to take over games up front, there’s always a possibility Burns could take a few shifts there late in a game the Sharks are trailing. But, that’s not something he’s thinking about on just the second day of training camp.
“I just come to play hockey,” he said.