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Notes: Sharks speedier with Kane; Burns still shooting

Mantha returns to net-front on second power-play unit

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

SAN JOSE -- When the Wings defeated the San Jose Sharks in a 2-1 shootout at Little Caesars Arena Jan. 31, the Sharks did not have Evander Kane, whom they acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26.

"He's obviously a real element of speed," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "And I think if you asked these guys, they've got a real good team. Joe Pavelski's been one of my favorite players since he's been in the league and going back to Waterloo when he was with the Blackhawks. Obviously, Joe Thornton's been an elite player.

"But they don't have tons and tons of speed. They've got really good hockey players, but he gives the element of speed to the team. I know they've talked about playing a north game more. To do that, it sure helps to have somebody who can get behind your D the way Evander can."

For the season, Kane has 21 goals among 45 points in 66 games.

"He's a really good player, he's got a ton of skill, he shoots the puck well, he's gritty as well, he goes to the net hard," defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. "It's good for them to add a player like that. He's really talented and we're going to have to keep an eye on him tonight."

In the five games he's played with the Sharks, Kane has one goal and four assists.

In 17 career games against the Wings, Kane has five goals and four assists.

"I played him when he was in Buffalo," defenseman Nick Jensen said. "He's a great player, he's really strong on the puck, he's fast, he's skilled. Again, it comes down to taking away the time and space that he has. The more pressure we put on him the less time he'll be able to make those plays that he normally makes, so that's going to be a big key and obviously being physical throws those guys off their game, so we're going to try to do that."

SHOOT THE PUCK: The last time the Wings faced the Sharks, defenseman Brent Burns had nine shots on goal.

None of those nine shots got past goaltender Petr Mrazek but it shows how prolific the big defenseman can be.

Burns is tied with Pavelski for the team lead in points with 53.

"He shoots from everywhere," DeKeyser said. "Every time he gets the puck up top he's putting it on the net or looking for high tips or stuff like that. Our wingers got to do a good job of getting out there and then if it gets by them the D got to try to step in front of a few."

Burns is third in the league in shots with 276. Washington's Alex Ovechkin leads with 290 and Dallas' Tyler Seguin is second with 276.

Two games ago against the Vegas Golden Knights, Jensen had a team-high seven shots so perhaps he can out-shoot Burns.

"That's a good goal to shoot for," Jensen said. "It's probably not realistic on my part but you get shots to the net anything can happen. I've seen it. It happened to me a few times, not me personally scoring, but get a few shots to the net, a guy gets a tip, it goes into the net. When you funnel pucks to the net things happen, it's bound to go in. A goalie's save percentage can't be 100 percent."

MANTHA RETURNS TO NET-FRONT: Anthony Mantha has had success this season going to the net and scoring from there, either on a deflection or rebound, particularly on the power play.

Nine of Mantha's 23 goals have come on the power play.

Recently, Blashill moved Mantha to the half-wall on the power play to give him a chance to use his shot more and put Tyler Bertuzzi net-front.

In Monday's morning skate, it was Mantha back at the net when his unit with Dylan Larkin, Martin Frk, Bertuzzi and Mike Green worked on the power play.

"I think when you have Frk on the power play, you've got a real flank shooter there," Blashill said. "Part of Larkin's growth has been leaving him on the half-wall and letting him learn that position. You've got Z (Henrik Zetterberg) on another half-wall and Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) on a half-wall. Those half-wall spots are filled up.

"Mantha, I was real reticent to take him off the net front to be dead honest with you, because that's an area where I think he's really grown, really learned to understand the goals that are there to be had there. He's one of the best guys at it. So that's why."

It won't be an easy task to score on the power play against the Sharks.

They have not allowed a man-advantage goal in the last seven games and have the league's best penalty kill at 84.7 percent.

MORE OPPORTUNITY FOR BERTUZZI: Bertuzzi's ice time has varied greatly in the 34 games he's played this season.

He played a season-low 6:48 Feb. 24 against the Carolina Hurricanes and a season-high 18:51 in the last game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Part of the increase is getting to play on the top line with Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist.

"I thought he was one of our best players the other night in Columbus," Blashill said. "He had the one right off the bat go off the post. He's had some crossbars. He hasn't got the production. The production needs to come certainly when you're on that line but he's kept tons of plays alive with his work ethic and his stick. He's a net-front presence guy but he's got lots of poise with the puck as well, so he can makes lots of little plays. I think he's done a good job for sure."

Bertuzzi has two goals among 15 points this season but has not scored a goal since Jan. 22 at New Jersey despite numerous quality chances.

"For me it's a matter of time," Blashill said. "I don't think there's anything else. It's just a matter of time. He's got good enough hands that he'll finish them for sure. He's shown me that in the past. I think he'll finish them at this level. It's not a matter of having goalies beat. He's had goalies beat, it just hasn't gone in. So if he keeps doing it over and over, I think he'll definitely get those same chances and he'll score."

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