Programming note: Kings-Sharks coverage begins Monday at 7 p.m.on the NBC Sports Network
SAN JOSE – The Sharks made a notable change to their top two lines in the second half of Saturday’s 3-2 win over Minnesota, and indications are they will stay that way at least to start Monday’s important game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Brent Burns, who has been with Joe Thornton for almost his entire tenure since becoming a forward, will instead skate with Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels. Matt Nieto has been pushed up to the Thornton-Joe Pavelski line.
That move midway through the second period on Saturday provided a necessary kick in the behind for the Sharks, who at one point trailed the Wild 2-0.
“We’d gone quite awhile with lines that were familiar, and you could just feel it on the bench. We were stale, things weren’t going well, so we had to shuffle it a little bit,” Todd McLellan said. “Where we’ll go from here, I don’t know. We’ll start a certain way, and we could be flip-flopping back to where we had been, but we have a starting point, anyhow.”
In typical style, Burns didn’t have much to say about the change. The winger was on the ice for Patrick Marleau’s second period goal that got the Sharks going on Saturday, but has gone nine games without a goal himself.
“A lot of speed, he’s got a great shot. I’ve said it 100 times, they are both unbelievable players,” Burns said of Marleau and Thornton.
The Sharks are still without star center Logan Couture, but the 24-year-old was again on the ice on Monday and looks to be nearing a return. Couture had surgery on his right hand on Jan. 8, and it was announced he would miss three-to-four weeks. Wednesday’s game in Edmonton will be the three-week mark.
McLellan was asked if Couture was on pace to return before the Olympic break, which begins after the Sharks host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 7.
“He’s close,” said the head coach.
“He was shooting the puck very well. Better than he has been over the last week. That just shows progress. His legs and lungs have been maintained very well. I think when he finally gets the go-ahead to really get involved the conditioning will come quick. The timing will take a couple games, but is he on pace to play before the Olympic break? I sure hope so, but I can’t answer that definitively.”
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Alex Stalock will start in net for the Sharks. The 26-year-old brings a 140:59 scoreless streak into the game, having shut out the Panthers and Jets in his previous two starts. Overall, he is 7-2-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.