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The Brent Burns at forward experiment seems to be working

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

Brent Burns is off to a great start as a forward. (Getty Images)
Brent Burns is off to a great start as a forward with San Jose. (Getty Images)

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After winning their first seven games and scoring 27 goals, the San Jose Sharks hit a wall starting in Feburary.

Since that season opening winning streak, the Sharks have won just five of their past 19 games and scored just 37 goals (an average of just 1.94 per game). They've fallen out of the top eight in the Western Conference and entered Thursday's game against Los Angeles without scoring at least four goals in a game since the end of January.

That's bad.

In an effort to give his offense a boost, Sharks coach Todd McLellan decided to move offensive-defenseman Brent Burns, who had missed most of the first half of the season due to injury, to forward earlier this week against the St. Louis Blues. Through two games, the experiment seems to be going well even if it's not going to be permanent.

"We feel like we have depth on the blue line. And if we have that depth and we're going to have somebody sitting out because you can't dress seven or eight every night, we might as well tap into it," McLellan said, via NHL.com's Eric Gilmore on Thursday. "I think Burns can help us up front. Long term, however long that might be, he's still a valuable defenseman. I'm sure we'll see him back there eventually."

He scored against the Blues during a 4-2 loss on Tuesday and found himself skating on the Sharks' top line. He followed that performance on Thursday, again skating on the top line, with another goal and an assist in San Jose's 4-3 win over the Kings (their first four-goal game since Jan. 27).

And it wasn't just his second goal in as many games that stood out. It was also his assist on Logan Couture's early third-period goal that was set up by a steal by Burns in the offensive zone, leading to an odd-man rush the other way, as well as the impressive team numbers with him on the ice.

Over the past two games during 5-on-5 play, the Sharks have outscored their opponents 3-1 and outshot them by a 14-7 margin with Burns on the ice as a forward.

On Thursday, the Sharks had five scoring chances to only one for the Kings with Burns on the ice. They were outchanced 14-7 without him (chance numbers via Sharks blog Fear The Fin). That's actually quite impressive.

Burns has some experience playing forward -- mostly in the American Hockey League, where he played for the Houston Aeros as a member of the Minnesota Wild organization -- but he certainly has the skill and offensive ability to pull it off.

Before Thursday's game, Joe Thornton told Gilmore that Burns seemed like a perfect fit on that line along with Couture.

"He's a pretty good defenseman, but I think he's going to be an even better forward," said Thornton. "I've only played two periods with him, but he's big, he's strong. He skates real well. He seems like a perfect fit for me and Logan."

And so far, he has been.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @Agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Also, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

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