Programming note: Sharks-Blues coverage begins Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
ST. LOUIS – Brent Burns had the best game of his career as an NHL forward the last time he lined up against the St. Louis Blues. The 28-year-old forward recorded his first ever hat trick, and four points total, in a 6-3 Sharks win over St. Louis on Nov. 29 at SAP Center.
In the eight games since then, though, it’s been a struggle for the six-foot-five, 230-pound winger. Burns has just one assist over that span, and, probably not coincidentally, the Sharks are 3-4-1. That includes losses in five of their last six (1-4-1).
Burns didn’t appear worried about his lack of production after Tuesday’s morning skate at Scottrade Center, where the Sharks and Blues will conclude their three-game season series. San Jose has won the first two, including a 6-2 win here on Oct. 15.
“I don’t feel bad,” Burns said. “Keep doing your thing, you know? Keep working hard. Sometimes they go, sometimes they are not. We still feel pretty good as a line.”
Burns skated in Monday’s practice wearing a teal sweater, typically indicative of a bottom-six forward. That could be perceived as a sign from the coaching staff that it is not thrilled with his play of late.
Burns said he didn’t take it as any message sending. Perhaps his head coach’s assessment of his game on Tuesday morning will provide that message.
“His game isn’t where it needs to be. He needs to find a way to become a little more effective,” McLellan said. “One, he’s got a big body. Two, he can skate. And, three, he’s got a shot that’s lethal. If he’s using those three assets under control and in the right spots, he becomes a very dangerous player. He’s got to get back to that.”
Burns was sorely missed when he missed a month of the regular season with an upper body injury, returning on Nov. 21, and the team’s record is still drastically different when Burns plays as a forward. Since the start of the shortened 2013 season, the Sharks are 30-13-3 and averaging 3.11 goals-per game with Burns skating as a forward, and are just 15-10-10 with 2.26 goals per game when he’s either out of the lineup or playing defense.
Captain Joe Thornton realizes the importance of getting his linemate going.
“He’s such a big part of this team. He’s been playing well he just hasn’t been finding the back of the net. But, it will come,” Thornton said.
“He works so extremely hard. With an 82-game schedule you’re going to have your ups and downs. You’re going to score a lot in a period of time and then kind of go dry a little bit. He’ll work his way out of it, he’s a great player, and no worries about him.”
Maybe a game against the impressive Blues will allow Burns to recapture that scoring touch that has gone so suddenly dry.
“Obviously, they are a great team so you’ve got to bring you’re A-game,” Burns said. “You always talk about it being a man’s game, so nothing changes.”