Rask, Bruins present stern test for Sharks in Boston
Loui Eriksson stayed in Buffalo overnight after a blow to the head from the Sabre's John Scott. (USATSI)
The Sharks average 3.26 goals per game with Brent Burns on the ice this year. In their only game without him, they were shut out. (USATSI)
BOSTON -- Dan Boyle’s return to the ice in Boston from a dirty hit was coincidental in an unfortunate way.
Against Buffalo on Wednesday night, the Bruins lost forward Loui Eriksson after a sickening blow to the head from the Sabres’ John Scott. Eriksson, acquired from Dallas as part of the Tyler Seguin trade, remained in Buffalo overnight and will miss tonight’s Sharks-Bruins game.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton was asked to give his perspective on what has been an abundance of bad hits and suspensions in the first three-plus weeks of the NHL season.
“It just kind of goes in waves I think. Right now, it seems like every day you’ve got a big hit that gets reviewed by Brendan Shanahan,” Thornton said. “I don’t know the reason it is.
“You don’t want to see guys get hurt. You don’t want to see Danny go down like he did. Guys just have to be respectful out there, and just be careful.”
The Sharks have been on the receiving end of two of what the league deemed suspendable hits, including Maxim Lapierre on Boyle and Alex Edler on Tomas Hertl on Oct. 10. Lapierre was suspended for five games, and Edler three.
Conversely, Brad Stuart was handed a three-game ban for his high hit on the Rangers’ Rick Nash on Oct. 8.
[RELATED: Boyle speaks out for first time since hit]
Todd McLellan probably had all of those hits in mind, as well as Raffi Torres’ well-documented issues, when he addressed the same question about the uptick in headshots.
“Sometimes when you get up here and answer those questions, you come across as having a group of saints. We’re not saints by any means. We have guys that have problems with finished checks and suspensions, too. It’s happening around the league,” McLellan said.
“But when you talk about it as a whole, there’s no need for it. There are players that can avoid certain situations, that haven’t. And I don’t know how we’re going to stop it. I just hope that it does stop.”
One thing the Sharks agree on is that they’re glad Boyle’s injury wasn’t devastating. The defenseman hopes to play in the next week.
“After a scary incident like that, to see him here, everybody had a smile on their face and we’re glad he’s back on the ice,” Thornton said.
Boyle’s defense partner, Matt Irwin, said: “The incident he went through, to see him back so quick is exciting, and it’s good for the team.”
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The Sharks will once again be with without Brent Burns on Thursday in Boston. He’ll miss his second straight game with a facial injury.
Since the start of last season with Burns in as a forward, the Sharks average 3.26 goals per game. When he’s not in the lineup or playing defense, that scoring average drops to 2.08 per game, including Monday, when San Jose was shut out by Detroit.
I asked McLellan about that disparity after Thursday’s morning skate.
“You’re referring back to last year. I think we just have to refer to this year, and obviously the number is zero,” McLellan said. “But, Burnzie has a big impact on how our team goes and how we play. The energy that he brings, the number of penalties that he’s able to draw because he’s rolling around in the offensive zone and using his size, his shot’s a weapon...
“When he’s not there, we miss him. But that gives young players -- the [Matt] Nietos, the [Freddie] Hamiltons, those type of players – a chance to play, and this will be a good test for all of them tonight.”