With injuries mounting and a need for an offensive boost, the San Jose Sharks have the luxury of moving Brent Burns off the blue line.
San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said the Norris Trophy winner will do whatever is needed to help the team, but fans shouldn’t get used to seeing No. 88 on the wing.
Burns and the Sharks meet the Vancouver Canucks in the middle contest of a three-game homestand Thursday night.
San Jose (30-19-8) is coming off a 2-1 loss to the league-worst Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Mikkel Boedker scored for the Sharks, who lost center Tomas Hertl to an upper-body injury late in the first period.
Hertl is the third San Jose forward to suffer an injury in recent weeks with Joe Thornton (knee) and Joel Ward (upper body). DeBoer said Wednesday that Hertl (15 goals, 18 assists), was doubtful for this contest but also wasn’t going to rule him out until seeing him practice Thursday.
DeBoer had Burns playing some shifts at forward against the Coyotes.
“We moved him up front to try and give our team a spark. We didn’t feel dangerous enough offensively up front,” DeBoer said Wednesday.
While Burns (team bests of 49 points and 39 assists) has played right wing at times in his 14-year career, DeBoer didn’t say this was going to be a permanent shift or even a long-term one.
“We’re going to put guys wherever we have to to win a game. If that means the Norris Trophy winner plays some shifts on the wing to help us win a game, that’s good,” DeBoer said. “But that doesn’t mean he’s not a defenseman anymore. Right now, our priority is we have to score some more goals.”
San Jose is in the middle of the pack in the league with 2.84 goals per game, and scored more than three goals once in its last nine contests. However, the Sharks are 2-0-1 with 13 goals scored in the season series and looking for their eighth win in nine games versus Vancouver.
Hertl leads San Jose with five points (two goals, three assists) in the season series, while Burns has two goals and an assist.
Aaron Dell could start for the Sharks over Martin Jones, a Vancouver-area native. Dell is 2-0-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and stopped 77 of 81 shots in the season set. Jones is 1-1-0, 2.03 with a .932 save percentage while playing for San Jose versus the Canucks at home.
The Sharks (68 points) are second in the Pacific Division, two points over the Calgary Flames and three ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
The playoffs appear to be well out of reach for Vancouver (22-29-6), which has the second-worst record in the Western Conference behind Arizona. The Canucks hit the ice after a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday despite a goal and two assists from Bo Horvat.
“The outcome wasn’t what we wanted,” Horvat said. “… In Dallas (a 6-0 victory Sunday), we played a full 60 minutes. We took 10 minutes off tonight and it cost us the game.”
Brock Boeser scored Wednesday and has two of the Canucks’ four goals versus San Jose in 2017-18. Boeser leads all rookies with 27 goals, and is second with 49 points, 10 behind Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders.
Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves Sunday but was pulled after surrendering four goals on 14 shots through the first period Wednesday. Anders Nilsson made 20 saves the rest of the way.
Markstrom has lost both starts in San Jose this campaign (0-1-1), stopping 53 of 61 shots. Nilsson has never played at the Shark Tank.
As their 17th NHL seasons wind down, this could also be the final visit to Northern California for Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, whose contracts end after the season.
Daniel Sedin has 44 points (14 goals) while Henrik Sedin has 46 points (13 goals) in their respective careers against the Sharks. The twins each recorded three assists in a 4-3 overtime victory against San Jose on Dec. 15 at Rogers Arena.
Vancouver is 3-3-0 in the second of games on back-to-back nights, and 5-9-1 when facing Pacific foes.