SAN JOSE Douglas Murray felt fine physically on Wednesday, playing for the first time since Dec. 3 with a right hand injury that sidelined him for 10 games. It was a different element of play that may have negatively affected him, though.
It felt more slow because of the thinking part of it. When youve been gone for three weeks you kind of over think things and it makes you kind of slow that way, but the legs felt great, Murray said after practice on Friday at Sharks Ice.
Murray played just over 14 minutes, down from his season average of more than 19 per game. He was paired with Justin Braun on what was the teams third defense pair behind Dan BoyleMarc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent BurnsJason Demers.
Todd McLellan explained his thought process regarding Murray.
Were trying to limit him. We didnt come into the game saying were going to cut his minutes back or anything, thats just the way the game evolved that he played 14, the coach said. I think he plays best around that 17 or 18 minute average, so hell get there.
For now, though, it appears that Murray will continue to play with Braun, as his regular partner over the past few seasons, Boyle, has been among the Sharks best players in recent weeks on both ends of the ice while paired with Vlasic.
In his last eight games, Boyle has a goal and four assists for five points and a 3 rating. Hes also generated a whopping 27 shots on goal during that span. The uneven start to the year, in which it was later revealed that Boyle played through a broken foot, appears to be behind the veteran defenseman.
We think that Boyler has played maybe his best hockey over the last how ever many weeks. Thats been with Vlasic, McLellan said. We like whats going on there, so we may keep it that way.
We switch up partners all the time. I know all of my teammates tendencies, but obviously when you play so long with someone, you kind of know what the other ones going to do and where hes going to be. That makes it a little bit easier," said Murray of Boyle. "But, every game we play with different guys, so its not a big deal.
Meanwhile, the Sharks are still battling a pair of injuries on the blue line. Jim Vandermeer remains on injured reserve with a left hand injury, while Colin White missed Wednesdays game with a lower body injury.
Vandermeer practiced with the Sharks again on Friday, as he has for the past two weeks. White did not, but he could return to the ice as soon as Saturday, according to McLellan.