SAN JOSE -- Brent Burns’ impact on the Sharks when he made the move to forward last season was nearly instantaneous. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound monster of a man scored 20 points in 23 games on the wing after head coach Todd McLellan took him off of the team’s blue line and found him a new home, eventually settling in alongside center Joe Thornton.
It’s only one intrasquad scrimmage, against many players that are destined to begin the season in the minors, but Burns’ performance in the teal vs. white game at Sharks Ice on Friday stood out from the rest of the camp crowd.
To put it another way, after training all summer to come to camp as a forward, Burns picked up right where he left off. That certainly pleases his head coach.
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“If you witnessed it or watched it it’s not different that what he played last year,” McLellan said. “Powered his way to a lot of the areas, was very aggressive, and he’ll have some success if he continues that.”
Can Burns be an even more productive forward in 2013-14 than he was in the second half of last season?
McLellan said: “If he does a lot of the physical things that he has shown us he can do, the points will take care of itself, and the team, in turn, will have success versus just Brent Burns. That’s what we’ll be looking for.”
Burns said last spring that he would need to know ahead of time what the team’s plans would be for him in the fall. Would he remain up front, or would he go back to manning the blue line, where his play was erratic? The decision was made public in July that Burns was, in fact, to train as a forward.
Burns downplayed the changes to his offseason regimen on Friday.
“It’s more watching the weight, and stuff. It’s not a big difference,” he said. “More of it’s just trying to rehab stuff, and get healthy.”
“At the end of the day, it’s hockey.”
Burns scored one goal in the scrimmage, getting open in the slot and converting a pass from new linemate Tyler Kennedy, after Kennedy sped up the wing and froze goaltender Alex Stalock with a nice move. The teal team, led by the Burns-Thornton-Kennedy line, cruised to an easy 5-1 win over Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and the white team. Dan Boyle scored twice.
McLellan was encouraged not only by Burns’ performance, but the teal team in general, which practiced earlier in the day while the white team was doing video and meeting off of the ice.
“I think you could tell that they had the practice this morning, and some of the things we worked on as far as forecheck showed up in the game, and it made it hard for the other squad,” McLellan said. “That’s a good sign. They’ve obviously picked some things up, they’re prepared to use it in the scrimmage, and we like to see that. Tomorrow, hopefully it’s a different day and the Couture team gets going and challenges the other team a little bit better.”
The Sharks will have one more scrimmage on Saturday at 9:50 a.m., and will play their first preseason game on Monday in Vancouver. Getting more guys to play with the energy and effectiveness of Burns will be important.
“I can guarantee you Vancouver won’t slow down, or the kids that they put in their lineup trying to earn a job,” McLellan said. “We may as well get used to it and get the summer habits out of our game here. I’m glad he played as hard as he played.”