SAN JOSE – The clue that Justin Braun was going to return early from an infection in his left elbow came at Tuesday’s morning skate, when the defenseman came off of the ice at his normal time while Matt Tennyson stayed on for extra work.
After ruling Braun out on Monday, though, coach Pete DeBoer didn’t give any indication that Braun would be in for the Penguins despite a couple direct questions about how he would handle the absence of one of his top four defensemen.
It was likely a bit of gamesmanship from the Sharks coach, but regardless, he was glad to be able to plug Braun back into the lineup a few days after calling him one of the team’s unsung heroes over the first quarter of the season.
“The doctors obviously gave him the green light or he couldn’t play, but it really was up to him,” DeBoer said after the Sharks’ 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh. “I wasn’t planning on playing him, he came and said he wanted to play today. He’s a tough kid. A little rusty being off without practicing, but give him full marks for effort and coming out.”
Braun finished with 18:53 of ice time, registering two shots on goal and an even rating. He took a first period hooking minor in the first period that the Sharks killed off, and drew a roughing penalty on Beau Bennett late in the second, when he was drilled into the glass from behind by the former first round pick. The penalty led to Patrick Marleau’s goal, the only Sharks score of the night.
The 28-year-old had missed the previous two games, a loss to Chicago and win over Calgary. In 22 games, Braun has six assists and a +6 rating. He’s still looking for his first goal in nearly a calendar year, last scoring on Dec. 6, 2014.