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31 in 31

Three questions facing San Jose Sharks

Play of Burns, Thornton's health among concerns

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the San Jose Sharks.

 

[Sharks 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Can Brent Burns regain his Norris Trophy form of 2016-17?

Burns led the Sharks in points (67) and assists (NHL career-high 55) last season, but he scored 12 goals and had an NHL career-worst minus-16 rating. Two seasons ago when he won the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL, Burns had NHL career highs in goals (29) and points (76).

Burns had more shots on goal last season (332) than in 2016-17 (320), but his shooting percentage dropped from 9.1 to 3.6 percent. The Sharks need him to regain his scoring touch.

Video: Brent Burns takes the No. 4 spot on the list

 

2. Can Joe Thornton stay healthy?

Thornton, who missed 12 games in 11 seasons from 2006-17, played 47 last season. He tore the MCL and ACL in his right knee Jan. 23 and missed the remainder of the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had surgery on his left knee after the 2016-17 season. Prior to last season, Thornton, 39, had at least 65 points in 11 of his first 12 seasons with the Sharks. He will be center on one of their top two lines, and they need him healthy.

"My left [knee] after coming back last year felt great," Thornton said. "Now with rehabbing my right knee, it feels so strong. I'm just excited to skate again, to be honest with you, and to play in a game. It's been a long time."

Video: 31 in 31: San Jose Sharks 2018-19 season preview

 

3. Will Evander Kane reward the Sharks for their faith in him?

Kane had 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 17 regular-season games and five points (four goals, one assist) in nine playoff games after he was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in a trade Feb. 26. San Jose signed him to a seven-year contract extension May 24.

Kane, 27, scored 29 goals last season, one shy of his NHL career high of 30 with the Winnipeg Jets in 2011-12.

"The one thing about this team and this group and this organization is that they allow you to be yourself," Kane said. "They embrace you for that. It's a very unselfish group that makes it super easy to come into and mesh well with. I'm lucky to have the teammates I do, and I'm really excited about being part of the Sharks organization for the next seven years."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Kane goes top shelf on Fleury

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