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SAN JOSE – Despite giving up some valuable points in the standings recently, one bright spot in San Jose’s game has been the resurgence of the power play.
In the last three games, the Sharks have potted six goals with a man advantage in 11 opportunities. The hot streak began against the Edmonton Oilers one week ago at Rexall Place, when they were a perfect 3-for-3 in a 5-2 win. The Sharks host Edmonton in the fifth and final game of their season series on Tuesday night.
So, what helped get it going, other than maybe going up against the league’s worst team? Oddly enough, putting Brent Burns in Logan Couture’s place seemed to give it a little jolt, after Couture wasn’t able to play the previous game against the Oilers due to a deep cut from blocking a shot.
Burns has remained on the top unit ever since, and indicated his role is to try and get open and fire the puck towards the net at every opportunity.
“I think they were playing well before. Those guys have been playing together a long time, so just try to get on the same page as them and stay out of the way, and make sure you get in position to shoot,” said Burns, who has one goal and three assists in his last three games, all on the power play. “It’s been good to get it going.”
The playmaking on that five-some, which also includes Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle, will be left to others, according to Burns.
“I don’t really read stuff. Just go. Not a lot of reading going on,” Burns said, with a smile.
Todd McLellan sensed another factor in the power play finally living up to expectations.
“I think they were tired of hearing about the performance woes of the power play, to tell you the truth. So, the urgency went up a little bit,” the coach said. “We talk about puck movement, entries, all that type of stuff. It’s getting the puck back. You’re not going to score on every shot, but if you can retrieve and recover loose pucks and create open ice after that rebound or after that shot, the second or third one eventually you’ll have a chance to score.”
As for Couture, no one would suggest that he was the reason the top unit was struggling prior to his one-game absence. If anything, he can help make the second unit much more dangerous, and he scored a power play goal of his own against Winnipeg in a 4-3 loss last Thursday with assists from Marty Havlat and James Sheppard.
He admitted it's “always tough” to come off of the top unit, but will try and create on a second unit that hasn’t done a whole lot this season.
“The first unit has gone out and done a good job. My job is to go out there and try and contribute to the second unit,” Couture said.
Havlat, who has had ample time on the second unit this season, said: “Every power play opportunity we get, it doesn’t matter who is on the ice. It’s very important, especially in the playoffs. It’s a game breaker right there.”