Programming note: Oilers-Sharks coverage starts Thursday at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live
SAN JOSE – There are a number of reasons the Sharks are surging, having won seven of their last eight games. Playing much better defensive hockey is at the top of the list.
That includes Brenden Dillon, who was an immediate upgrade over Jason Demers when acquired from the Dallas Stars on Nov. 21. The 24-year-old was paired up full time with Brent Burns before the recent run of success began against the Ducks on Nov. 29, and since then the Sharks have allowed just 16 goals in their last eight games.
“I think he’s adjusted really well. He’s very astute,” Todd McLellan said. “Asks questions, he’s inquisitive, wants to know how we do things. … He’s very coachable that way.”
Dillon said: “With every day that’s gone by, I’ve been more and more comfortable.”
It’s wasn’t exactly a hot start in teal for Dillon, who was scoreless with a -5 rating in his first three games with his new team, including that 6-4 win over the Ducks that got the Sharks’ ship pointed in the right direction.
Since then, Dillon has been an even or plus player in his last seven games. A turning point for him may have been in a game against the Flyers on Dec. 2, when he fought Sean Couturier while the Sharks were trailing 1-0 in the first period of an eventual 2-1 win.
Dillon – who is build at solidly as anyone on the roster at six-foot-four, 225 pounds – has added some necessary physically to the Sharks’ blue line, according to McLellan.
“Both [Dillon and Burns] have that physical element,” McLellan said. “They can keep the other team honest with their physicality. We like that with them.”
Of course, adjusting to a new team in the middle of the season can be challenging off of the ice as well as on it. Dillon recently found a place to live in the San Jose area, but before that, it was Burns who took the lead in welcoming him to the Sharks.
Burns had Dillon over to his house on a number of occasions, and Dillon even stayed over a couple times (fortunately without getting devoured by any of Burns’ snakes or assorted reptiles).
“He’s been really good to me,” Dillon said. “It’s nice when veteran guys like that take you under their wing or whatever it might be. It’s been nice getting to know the guy and enjoy his company, and [I] just want to play harder for him. It’s been great.”
Justin Braun said: “Burnzie did a great job having him over to his house and getting used to him on and off the ice. Getting to know who you’re playing with, especially d-men – it’s a comfort level back there.”
Dillon is a pending restricted free agent, and wasn’t able to work out a contract extension with Dallas before the season. He’s not concerning himself with that now.
“My agent just told me to play hockey and we can worry about that stuff when it comes to it,” he said. “First and foremost is being a defenseman for the Sharks and helping us win. That stuff will take care of itself when it does.”
Could San Jose be a long term fit?
“I love it here, I really do. I’ve been here three weeks, and between the guys and the city and the coaching staff – and winning now – I really enjoy it here. If that happens I’d definitely be a happy guy.”