After slump, Burns is Sharks' hottest forward

Highlights: Early goals from Burns, Couture propel Sharks

After slump, Burns is Sharks' hottest forward
December 30, 2013, 1:45 pm
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I always want to be working. I don’t want to feel like I’m not doing anything, so it’s always kind of a battle in myself to work hard, but to try to work smart, too.
Brent Burns

Programming note: Sharks-Ducks coverage begins Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California

SAN JOSE – Lost a bit among Logan Couture ending his 11-game goal-scoring streak, and Bracken Kearns’ more than 32-year drought with an NHL marker, was that forward Brent Burns remained the team’s hottest forward on Sunday.

Burns had a goal and an assist in the 3-1 Sharks win, his third straight multiple-point effort. The 28-year-old has seven points in his last three games, and has scored a goal in four of his last six.

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It may or may not be a coincidence that Burns ended the first real dry spell of his tenure as a forward after coach Todd McLellan demoted him for a practice in St. Louis on Dec. 16. After a stretch of just one assist over eight games from Nov. 30 – Dec. 14, Burns scored the next night against the Blues, and has been a force ever since.

McLellan wasn’t sure if taking him out of the top six for one lonely practice was what turned it around for the free-spirited Burns. But, the message seemed to get through, and it was a bit of an odd message, at that.

The Sharks’ coaching staff stresses playing the game at a fast pace, and Burns was never lacking in that aspect. In fact, he had to tap the breaks a bit, according to the coach.

“It’s amazing, we want to play the game fast and hard, sometimes we have to ask Burnzie to slow down just a little bit,” McLellan said on Sunday morning. “Be in the right spot at the right time. He’s been that over the last few games.”

Burns said: “My thing is, I always want to be working. I don’t want to feel like I’m not doing anything, so it’s always kind of a battle in myself to work hard, but to try to work smart, too.”

In the last three games, Burns has been a powerhouse. He’s fired 19 shots on net, scoring three goals, but when you combine his missed shots and shot attempts blocked, he has a whopping 34 attempts at the net.

What turned it around? Putting Joe Pavelski on the other wing with Joe Thornton after Tomas Hertl’s injury on Dec. 19 has seemed to benefit Burns, and that line, which has six of the team’s nine even-strength goals in the last four games.

Burns said: “With Jumbo, he’s just kind of been finding me a lot more, and he’s always going to put it on your stick. He’s the best passer, I think, in the game, so it’s my responsibility to try and get open and get him some space to find me.”

Now, the eight-game slump looks like it’s just a minor blip on the radar during what has been a wildly successful position change for the former defenseman.

“That was a new adventure for him. Pushed through, and now he’s back to doing the things that he normally does,” McLellan said.