Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game Seven

Sharks explain moving Burns back to the blueline

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The San Jose Sharks made a lot of debatable statements this offseason, but they didn’t really blow things up like some feared (and others requested). One significant move involved a tweak from within, as the organization decided to move Brent Burns back to defense.

GM Doug Wilson explained the logic to the NHL.com on Friday.

We acquired him in a trade to be a stud defenseman,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “To find a guy at that size who can shoot and skate that’s played in this League and been an All-Star as a defenseman, we don’t think there’s going to be any issue there, and especially if you’re working with [associate coach] Larry Robinson and [assistant coach] Jim Johnson.”

Maybe just as importantly, the 29-year-old appears to prefer playing on defense. The fit seems reasonable enough with Dan Boyle fleeing to the New York Rangers.

The thing is, more than a few believe that Burns simply offers more as a barreling power forward as he does as a very nice defensive piece. Fear the Fin made a strong argument against moving him (albeit back in May):

But even harder to find is the kind of unrestrained physical force Brent Burns was as a power forward for the past season and a half. He was one of the most effective forecheckers in the league, excelled on the cycle and at protecting the puck along the wall in tandem with Joe Thornton and generated a boatload of scoring opportunities every time he stepped on the ice. Oh, and he scored. A ton. That might come as news to people who only look at the counting stats (Burns scored 31 goals and 37 assists in 92 games up front) but those undersell Burns’ true offensive contributions and his real impact in transforming the Sharks from a team that couldn’t buy a goal at even-strength for two and a half years into the 5th-best even-strength offense in the league.

On the bright side, the Sharks boast a quality player, whether they roll him out on the wing or the blueline.

Logan Couture’s simple statements to NHL.com might really say it the best.

“It’s weird when you think about Brent Burns and how good of a forward he was when he moved up front,” Couture said. “Then you remember he was an NHL All-Star as a defenseman and he scored almost 20 goals as a defenseman. I’m looking forward to it. He’s always entertaining when he’s on the ice.

He’s pretty entertaining at times off the ice, too.

(H/T to The Score.)

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?

Video: Rust opens scoring in Game 7

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What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.

Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.

After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.

Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…