SAN JOSE -- Barring the unexpected, Brent Burns will be back in the lineup Thursday night when the Sharks face the Tampa Bay Lightning after missing 13 games with a facial injury.
"We'll see how he is when he comes to the rink, but he's telling me now that he's ready," Coach Todd McLellan said, noting Burns has been taken off injured reserve — usually a sign a player is good to go. "He looks ready, and right now he is."
With Burns contributing four goals and four assists while in the lineup for eight games, San Jose got off to a 7-0-1 start. Without him, the Sharks have gone 6-3-4.
"I think anybody who's watched us play realizes that his size and his tenacity is his biggest asset, but he can also shoot the puck and finish," McLellan said, adding that Burns also brings "a little bit of unpredictability."
McLellan acknowledged the obvious, that the Sharks have missed Burns.
"You don't take a 6-foot-5, 230-pound player out of your lineup that can skate and shoot like that and not miss him. It's as simple as that," the coach said. "He is a big, big part of our team."
Linemate Joe Thornton said that Burns's return would add speed to the San Jose game as well.
"We try to play fast every night and with Burnzie we're just a little bit more aggressive and hard to play against," Thornton said. "He's a big horse out there that loves to skate and loves to work. For his linemates, like me and Tomas (Hertl), we've just got to keep up with a guy like that."
McLellan did caution not to expect too much from Burns right away.
"It's hard to come back in after a month of watching. The pace has gone up since he last played. The intensity, the detail to games have gone up, not only for us but for the opposition." McLellan said. "So to expect him to be the savior would be a mistake for all of us."