SAN JOSE – Brent Burns and Joe Thornton have played together for essentially the entire season, except, of course, when Burns was out with an upper body injury in October.
They took a break from one another in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Minnesota, though. Todd McLellan switched Burns to the Patrick Marleau line with Tommy Wingels, and Matt Nieto was bumped up to the Thornton-Joe Pavelski line. It happened in the second period, and the result was Thornton’s first goal, which brought the Sharks back to within 2-1, and Marleau’s game-tying goal less than a minute later.
McLellan’s attempt to wake up his team, which was somewhat lethargic after Matt Cooke’s goal midway through the first period, seemed to work.
The head coach wouldn’t commit to that change for the next game, on Monday at home against Los Angeles, and an optional skate on Sunday provided no clues.
“I have to figure out how to get home from here first before I figure out what we’re doing tomorrow,” McLellan joked, after Saturday’s game.
Nieto has been particularly good lately. He scored in consecutive games in Florida and Tampa Bay on Jan. 16 and 18, had a game-high six shots on goal on against Calgary on Jan. 20, and looks more and more comfortable as an NHL'er.
He credits a minor league stint from November 25 to early December 8 for his recent surge. A scheduling quirk saw Nieto play in just two games for the Sharks’ AHL affiliate during that two-week span.
“When I got sent down I played two games in two weeks, so I was able to rejuvenate a little bit,” he said after Saturday's game. “My body is feeling great. I’m just trying to use my speed and I’ve been producing lately, so I have to keep that up.”
Burns hasn’t been bad. He has, of course, been a part of the Thornton-Pavelski line for some time, and deserves some of the credit for Pavelski’s scorching run of 15 goals in 17 games on that line. Still, the big winger has now gone nine games without a goal.
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Taylor Doherty has been reassigned to Worcester. The six-foot-seven-inch defenseman has yet to play an NHL game.