He's probably the currently-injured San Jose forward (and there are many) Sharks fans were least eager to see return to the lineup but, for whatever it's worth, Adam Burish will make his season debut tonight as the Sharks host his former team, the Dallas Stars, in San Jose's penultimate game before the Olympic break.
Last year, the first of the rather inexplicable 4-year, $7.4 million contract the veteran winger inked with the Sharks on the first day of free agency in 2012, did not go very well for Burish. Playing in all but two of the team's lockout-shortened 48-game slate, Burish notched just one goal and two assists but the rot ran much deeper than poor scoring numbers. With Burish on the ice at even-strength, the Sharks earned just 43.8% of all shot attempts and scored just 26.7% of all goals, both of which were team-worst rates by a substantial margin. Brought in to shore up the penalty kill, Burish was on the ice for more 4-on-5 goals per minute than any other regular penalty killer.
In Burish's defense, he started a greater percentage of his even-strength shifts in the defensive zone than any other player so it perhaps shouldn't be overly surprising the team was outshot and outscored at a greater rate with him on the ice than any other player. He also drew seven more penalties than he took in 2013, the third-best penalty differential on the team behind Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. So there are ways in which he contributes and he's probably better than Eriah Hayes, who was sent down to Worcester in anticipation of Burish's return, but I can't see him being in the lineup on a nightly basis when Couture, Raffi Torres and Tyler Kennedy are healthy.
Tonight is the Sharks' third meeting of the season against Dallas. Both prior contests ended in shootouts with the Stars snapping San Jose's season-opening six-game winning streak with a win in Texas on October 17th and Alex Stalock saving the Sharks' bacon at the Tank on December 22nd when the team gave up 46 shots to their former Pacific Division rivals. Under Lindy Ruff this season, the Stars have been one of the most consistently entertaining teams in the league. And while their place in the standings (they're currently two points back of Vancouver for the final wild card spot) may not reflect, they're also one of the best.
The only Western Conference teams who have controlled possession in score-close situations at a better clip than the Stars this season are the Kings, Blackhawks and Sharks. They've been done in by a rotten power play but if Dallas can sneak into the playoffs I think they can manage to do some real damage, especially since their top line easily belongs on a short list of the NHL's most fearsome. This is a big test for the Sharks, especially coming off their 5-2 loss to the Flyers that may have been their worst performance of the season. They can't afford anything resembling that outing against this team.
|26-21-9, 61 points
||35-16-6, 76 points|
|5th in Central
||2nd in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup