Sharks mic up Dillon, offering glimpse into hockey's fighting culture

Sharks mic up Dillon, offering glimpse into hockey's fighting culture

SAN JOSE – Ask anyone in the league who’s been around the Sharks’ Brenden Dillon, and they’ll likely tell you that off the ice he’s one of the more gentlemanly players in the game today. That might surprise some outsiders, who have become accustomed to seeing the six-foot-four, 230-pounder drop the gloves and throw haymakers when he deems it necessary to stand up for one of his teammates.

But a video circulating on social media and talked about on The Today Show on Thursday morning, in which Dillon was mic’d up during a fight with Nashville’s Austin Watson, offered a glimpse into the 26-year-old’s personality. Immediately after exchanging blows with Watson in the second period of a game on March 11, Dillon and the Predators forward had a friendly chat from their respective penalty boxes that made it sound as if they were lifelong buddies.

In reality, Dillon didn’t recall ever even chatting with Watson in the past.

“People were asking, ‘is that your buddy?’ I literally have never met Watson before. I don’t know him at all,” Dillon said on Thursday.

For those that have seen the video, the “Joey” they were referring to was the Predators’ Ryan Johansen, whom Dillon said he knows “really well.”

That affable back-and-forth doesn’t happen after every fight, of course, but it’s not uncommon for hockey players in leagues that still permit fighting to be friends with one another, or to quickly move on from some rough stuff that has happened on the ice. It’s simply an accepted part of the culture and the game.

In this instance, Dillon was simply sticking up for Paul Martin, who was on the receiving end of a heavy hit from Watson.

“Some of [the fights], I for sure wouldn’t want to see the guy, talk to the guy, [or] touch the guy ever again in my life,” Dillon quipped. “There’s others where you’re able to joke around about it a bit. At the end of the day, you’re still going to go out and play hard, and finish your check on him the rest of the game whether you’re a good buddy or not.”

The Sharks have acquired players in recent years that had some run-ins with current guys already in the dressing room. Raffi Torres assimilated quickly into the dressing room when he was brought in four years ago, and Roman Polak was welcomed, too, despite pummeling Justin Braun in a playoff series while he was still with St. Louis in 2012. Most recently Jannik Hansen joined the team, and mentioned in his conference call with the local media just after the deal that he had fought Dillon once before.

Neither Hansen nor Dillon was worried about any discomfort, though, from a fight that had happened two years earlier.

“A guy like Jannik Hansen, three weeks ago is one of your worst enemies, and now you’re playing with him on the same team. You want nothing but the best for the guy,” Dillon said. “Last year when Polak came here, he [had] fought Brauner or something, and it was kind of like, is there going to be any awkwardness? I don’t think there ever was. You maybe joke around about it at first.”

“I think it’s something in the world of sports you respect one another, you respect what you do on a nightly basis. That’s kind of what hockey is. I think that’s something that separates it from football and baseball. You get a five-minute penalty for it, you come back out and play hard. There aren’t too many guys that will hold grudges. Obviously if there’s a bad hit there might be a little bit, but in certain instances like that one (with Watson), it just happened.”

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

DALLAS – Brent Burns hasn’t altered his routine, despite his name not showing up on the scoresheet for a little while.

“It’s not like I stopped eating the same meal or I’m not sleeping anymore,” Burns said on Thursday, after a rare Sharks road practice. “It’s the same. I do the same thing every game.”

What he hasn’t been doing every game, like he seemed to be for the first three-quarters of the season, is racking up points. The Norris Trophy frontrunner hasn’t potted a goal in his last 14 games, and is scoreless in his last seven. He still leads the Sharks with 70 points, and has four more points than Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the most among NHL defensemen, but there’s no denying he’s hit a cold streak. Previously, he hadn't gone more than three games without a point.

He’s not the only one, of course, as the Sharks have managed just four goals in their last four games, all regulation losses. But when a team is struggling to put the puck in the net, it’s often the top guys that have to lead the resurgence. And no one has been better or more important to the Sharks this season than the 32-year-old blueliner.

Could it be that as Burns goes, so do the Sharks? The team is 33-9-3 when Burns finds the scoresheet, and just 9-15-4 when he doesn't.

Coach Pete DeBoer doesn’t think so, though, pointing to the Sharks putting up plenty of offense at the start of Burns’ dry spell, including nine combined goals in wins over Dallas and Buffalo last week.

“I don’t think we only score when Brent Burns is on. I think we’re deeper than that. I think we’ve shown that,” DeBoer said. “He hasn’t scored in awhile, and up until a few games ago we were putting up some significant goals and numbers and offense. 

“I think even the nights he’s not scoring, we’ve generated lots of chances. Other than the St. Louis game (a 4-1 loss on March 16), the last three games we’ve lost, we’ve generated enough chances that on a lot of nights that’s three or four goals. But, that’s not just [on] Burnzie…It’s some other guys bearing down and sticking it in the net. It will come.”

Joe Thornton believes that the forwards can also do more to help Burns, who has become the team’s most valuable offensive weapon with his ability to get shots or passes through from a distance with velocity and precision like few players in the NHL can.

“He’s obviously a dominant player, and I think we just need to help him out,” Thornton said. “It shouldn’t always be on one guy, I think we’ve got to give him better opportunities to put him in better spots. It shouldn’t all lay on his shoulders. We’re not doing a good enough job to kind of work away from him, and getting him opportunities.”

Burns, of course, is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. During practice, his hooting and hollering can typically be heard echoing throughout the rink. Simply put, no one has more fun than this guy.

So, is the cold streak weighing on him? Maybe a little bit.

“I think it weighs on him, for sure,” DeBoer said. “We have good dialogue, there’s a lot of communication, especially with him and [assistant coach Bob Boughner]. And also, him and his teammates. The guys know how much responsibility he takes on himself – sometimes too much. Guys are good with that, they recognize that.”

Thornton said: “When you’re a d-man and you get so many goals and so many assists, you kind of expect it’s going to happen every night, but that’s just not the reality of it. He’s doing something that hardly [any] d-men do in the history of the game. … He’s capable of just getting out of that quick, and pouring it on like he has in the first 65 games of the year.”

For now, Burns is taking every new day and new game as it comes, and said: “It’s no different if you’ve won four in a row and you’ve got 10 points.”

And if he did have 10 points in his last four games?

“You want 12. If you’ve got zero, you want one. Then 12,” he said.

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

DALLAS – Injured Sharks forwards Jannik Hansen and Melker Karlsson both returned to the ice for Thursday’s practice in Dallas, in what Pete DeBoer called “a good first step” in their recoveries.

The coach left open the possibility that one or both could play against the Stars on Friday night, even though neither was skating on a set line for practice.

“We’ll have to wait and see how they feel [Friday] morning and what the recovery is,” DeBoer said. “I’m not prepared to say they’re in tomorrow, but it’s a good sign they’re on the ice and participated.”

Hansen has been out for the past two games since getting a stick in the head from defenseman Brandon Montour on Saturday against Anaheim. 

“Took a couple days [off] to make sure everything was aright,” Hansen said. “Getting better, back on the ice today.”

Officially, it’s an upper body injury. When pressed if it was a concussion issue, Hansen said: “I don’t know. It’s tough to say to begin with, but obviously you do all the precautionary things that [are] involved now.”

Although he has just one assist in his first six games with the Sharks, Hansen seemed to spark the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, as the line generated one even strength goal in each of the first four games Hansen played.

Karlsson has missed the last six games with a lower body injury. He has 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games with a plus-nine rating.

* * *

The lines remained the same for Thursday’s practice. Patrick Marleau was with Thornton and Pavelski; Logan Couture centered Joel Ward and Mikkel Boedker; Tomas Hertl was between Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, while the fourth line sweaters were worn by Chris Tierney, Micheal Haley, Timo Meier and Danny O’Regan.

San Jose stayed over in St. Paul on Tuesday night and flew to Dallas on Wednesday morning on their day off.

The Wild game, a 3-2 loss, was the Sharks’ fourth straight. They’ve generated just four goals over that span.

That game also capped off a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Sharks, who now have just a two-point lead on Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division – a lead that was nine points before the losing streak began.

Was the day off good?

“Yeah. We’ve been kind of struggling scoring goals, so just to kind of relax yesterday and then kind of get back and refocus today,” Thornton said. “But sometimes you just need a little time away from the rink. I think yesterday was needed.”

DeBoer said: “I think our group is pretty mature. I don’t think we’re overeating to the situation. No one’s happy we’ve lost a few, but we also know that we’ve done enough good things that we could have won two or three of those games. We’ve just got to stick with it, clean up a couple things, and score some goals.”

* * *

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic skated after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. Tierney missed Monday’s game in Dallas, also due to illness.

Is that all gone now?

“Knock on wood. Nothing today. Hope so,” DeBoer said.