Odd Man Rush: Havlat's role, Blackhawks rivalry picks up
Brent Burns hasn't played since Oct. 19; Martin Havlat was a healthy scratch for the 3-1 win in Edmonton on Friday. (USATSI)
SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Brent Burns is a man of few words when it comes his unspecified upper body injury and health status. Perhaps that’s why captain Joe Thornton loudly chimed in when he overheard a question directed towards Burns, when Burns was asked if it felt good to get back on the ice with his old linemates on Wednesday morning.
“[Heck] yeah, he’s with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl, are you kidding me?” Thornton said.
“What he said,” Burns followed.
The six-foot-five, 230-pound defenseman-turned-forward was back in his previous spot with the captain and the impressive rookie for Wednesday’s practice, the strongest indication yet that he’s ready to resume his season after a 13-game absence. Neither Burns nor Todd McLellan would declare Burns as ready to return on Thursday against Tampa Bay, though.
“I can tell you that he visited a doctor or two and he got a really good report, so he’s real close,” McLellan said. “Now, it’s conditioning and timing. But he looks good, he worked real hard while he’s been off, so he’s close.”
But, is he an option for Thursday? McLellan said that he still had to talk to the team’s medical staff, but also wants to make sure that Burns is ready for the NHL pace after having not played since Oct. 19. Burns has four goals and four assists in eight games.
“Would we like to have him? Absolutely, I think he’ll make a difference,” McLellan said. “But, he has to be prepared to play and play good minutes, and not put himself at any risk for any other type of injury.”
Burns’ return would also affect the rest of the forward lines. Tommy Wingels, who proved to be the best replacement for Burns on the Thornton line, skated on Wednesday with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. The third line included Joe Pavelski, Tyler Kennedy and Marty Havlat, while the fourth line was a mish-mash of the remaining forwards.
If that’s the lineup that McLellan goes with against the Lightning, it’s a good chance for Havlat to increase his role on the team after he was a healthy scratch on Friday in Edmonton and a fourth line forward on Sunday in Chicago.
Havlat was removed after an ineffective game in Vancouver last Thursday, when he didn’t have a single statistic in any category on the final game sheet in 11 minutes and 27 seconds of ice time.
“I didn’t do much in those 11 minutes, for sure,” Havlat said. “I didn’t do anything positive, I didn’t do anything negative. It was one of those nights. I was happy I didn’t do anything bad in that time I got on the ice.”
Havlat was asked what he needed to do in order to avoid having a diminished role on the team, which is how it’s been trending lately.
“Just have to play the way I play. Just worry about myself. Other things I can’t control,” he said. “I have to work hard and play my game. It’s not up to me if I’m in the lineup or not.”
McLellan was pleased with Havlat’s reaction to getting scratched for one game.
“Marty is a very professional individual. He did what anybody else would do -- he worked out, he trained, he got himself ready to play in Chicago, had a good morning skate, and was ready to go again,” said the coach.
A healthy Burns, and a more effective Havlat, would be welcome developments for the Sharks as they kick off five-game homestand. The team is coming off of a grueling 3-1-1 road trip, that ended with the most convincing loss of the season in Chicago, 5-1.
Burns said: “I think we’ve got a special group, and there’s a great energy coming every day. It’s tough to be away from it, and it’s good to get back into it in whatever fashion it is.”