McLellan: We made strides but we weren't at our best
Brad Stuart has just three points in 11 games this season (three assists) and a +/= of 1. (USATSI)
CALGARY – Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart confirmed on Monday that he was indeed a healthy scratch against the Winnipeg Jets, in the Sharks’ 5-4 shootout loss on Sunday night.
He took the benching in stride.
“You just come out the next game, and just do what you do,” Stuart said. “Obviously, when you lose some games, coaches are looking for ways to give the lineup a spark or get things going a little bit. I just come back in next game, or whatever it is, and just do what I do and make sure I’m ready myself.”
In practice at the Saddledome on Monday, the Sharks skated in some new line combinations as they try and end their five-game skid (0-1-4) on Tuesday night against the Flames. San Jose has not won since Oct. 27 in Ottawa, more than two weeks ago, dropping three games in a shootout, one in overtime and one in regulation.
The most notable line change was Patrick Marleau centering Marty Havlat and Tyler Kennedy as his wingers. Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto were moved into top six roles, with Logan Couture as the center.
Marleau has one assist in his last four games, while Havlat has two points – both in the same game on Nov. 5 vs. Buffalo – in his first five games back from offseason pelvic surgery. Kennedy has one goal over the last four games.
“It might be something we’ll do. When I look at our team, we’re scoring enough goals to win games. So, some guys are maybe not producing as much as they did earlier in the year, but as a team, we’re scoring enough to win,” McLellan said.
“It’s the preventative part, the bonehead mistakes that we’re making. Some of them are just flat out individuals that are erring at inopportune times, and it’s costing everybody. But, that’s part of being on a team.”
As for Marleau, who had an overtime goal taken away on Sunday after a dubious call by referee Dave Jackson: “He’s played [center] before, he may get a chance to play there tomorrow, or we could have him right back on the wing again.”
Although he’s doubtful for Tuesday, Brent Burns looks to be nearing a return. The big winger, who has missed nine games, did not take regular line rushes on Monday so it seems unlikely he’ll play against the Flames, but all indications are he’s getting closer as he continues to practice. The Sharks have three more games after Calgary on Tuesday, stopping in Vancouver, Edmonton and Chicago this week.
McLellan was asked if could Burns play before the end of the road trip.
“I sure hope so, but I’m not a doctor or a trainer,” McLellan said.
But not against the Flames, right?
“You know what, I’ve got to check. It would be nice if he played tomorrow, but, we’ll see.”
Justin Braun said: “Watching Burnzie out there today, he was scoring goals left and right. I can’t wait for him to get back. He’s great to watch. A big, strong guy who can drive through any d-man out there.”
The Sharks fell to 15-9-10 with Burns either out of the lineup or playing defense since the start of the 2013 season. When Burns is a forward, the Sharks are 20-9-2, and average nearly a full goal per game more.
“I’m not aware, but I can imagine,” said Braun, of the notable discrepancy in the Sharks’ record with and without Burns.
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McLellan would not reveal which goaltender would start against the Flames on Tuesday, although Alex Stalock was the first one off of the ice at practice Monday. Antti Niemi has started 16 of the Sharks’ 17 games.
Calgary announced Reto Berra would be in net against the Sharks.