With Burns rewarded, Sharks take aim at Blackhawks
The San Jose Sharks appear to be a team in flux, but they've made sure that one of the core pieces will be around for quite a while.
With Brent Burns' contract situation now a done deal, the Sharks continue their five-game homestand Wednesday night versus the Chicago Blackhawks.
San Jose (10-8-1) has long been anchored by Joe Thornton and original Shark Patrick Marleau, both in their 19th NHL seasons with their respective contracts expiring after the season. Joe Pavelski, at 32, and Logan Couture, at 27, are locked up through 2019.
Now the Sharks' top defenseman has been taken care of, as Burns on Tuesday signed an eight-year extension worth a reported $64 million.
Burns, now in his sixth season with San Jose after playing with the Minnesota Wild from 2003-11, is the Sharks' all-time leader among defensemen with 93 goals, and needs 14 points to surpass Dan Boyle (269 points from 2008-14) as the team's career leader in points among blue-liners.
“Brent is one the most dynamic players in the National Hockey League and we're very excited to get this deal done,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told the team's official website Tuesday.
Burns snapped a season high-tying, three-game scoreless streak with a goal and assist in the Sharks' 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday in the opener of the homestand. He leads San Jose with seven goals and with 16 points is one shy of tying Pavelski for the team lead.
While with the Sharks, Burns has two goals and five assists in 14 career games against the Blackhawks in San Jose.
The Sharks, who lost in the Stanley Cup final in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, come into this game trailing the Edmonton Oilers by just two points for the Pacific Division lead. And even though Burns will be 40 when the new deal expires, he's excited about what the future holds for the club.
“We got some great guys coming up. … We're going to have a great group for a long time,” Burns told the San Jose Mercury News.
Martin Jones is expected to start in goal for the Sharks, and if so, he'll try to build off a 26-save performance against the Devils for his second shutout in six games.
Jones is 5-2-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average with a .933 save percentage at SAP Center this season. He lost in his only start and career appearance against the Blackhawks last season.
The Blackhawks annual Circus Trip shifts to California after going 2-2-0 across central and western Canada.
Chicago was blanked for the second time on this trip — 5-0 by Edmonton on Monday. The Blackhawks dropped a 4-0 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 15, and were held scoreless for the first 42:53 before roaring back from three goals down for a 4-3 overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday
Coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times that he needs production from everyone.
“When you don't score in two of the three games, and you basically get production in one period out of nine, you're looking for ways to generate,” he said. “… But we need four lines going.”
Jonathan Toews has been remarkably consistent through his first nine NHL seasons for Chicago, averaging 28 goals and 35 assists. However, the Blackhawks' captain has just four goals and eight assists in 20 games, and has failed to get on the scoresheet in the last four.
Facing the Sharks may help him get back on track. He's posted 13 goals and 13 assists in 29 career games versus San Jose, leading his team to a 16-9-4 record.
Chicago is 8-2-2 in its last 12 against the Sharks, however the two regulation defeats have been by shutout. The Blackhawks' defense has been particularly strong, limiting the Sharks to 1.83 goals per game over the dozen matchups.
Corey Crawford will likely get the chance to make up for the poor effort in Edmonton. He's 3-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his last four starts in San Jose.
“That wasn't our team,” Crawford said Monday. “… We just have to forget about it and worry about the next game.”