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Murray: Playing the Professor

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray, left, is hugged by teammate Dan Boyle after Murray's goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Friday, Sept. 25, 2009. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle go together like peanut butter and jelly. When Boyle returns from his injury, it would be a shock it they weren’t reunited as defensive partners.

In the meantime, Murray’s new partner is rookie Justin Braun. There are similarities in that Braun, like Boyle, is an offensive blueliner who has no problem shooting the puck. But the key difference is where Murray and Boyle are more like peers to each other, Murray and Braun are more like teacher and pupil.

“When he (Murray) plays with Boyle, he’s still the younger guy,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s good for him to mentor a young player. He helps him through hard times and makes sure he’s rewarding him when he makes good plays. I think Cranky makes Brauny feel good when he’s on the ice with his physical presence. He’s a bright guy and he’s got a good memory. He knows the past he experienced.

Murray has helped anchor one of the NHL’s best defenses for years and is an Olympian, while Braun is barely removed from college. In fact, Braun was still at the University of Massachusetts – Lowell at this point last season, so there’s quite a bit of wisdom to pass along.

When they hit the ice, Murray definitely looks out for his younger partner. Having played two years of junior (United States Hockey League) and four years of college hockey, Braun isn’t exactly young at 24, but he doesn’t have much National Hockey League experience. That’s where Murray comes in and Murray is enjoying the role of educator.

San Jose Sharks' Justin Braun, left, is chased by Chicago Blackhawks center Tomas Kopecky, of Slovakia, (82) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Not that long ago, five years in fact, Murray was the one receiving advice and it was current Washington Capitals blueliner Scott Hannan who was his partner.

“When I first game into the League,” Murray said, “he was great. He communicated a lot, gave good solutions on the ice and (read) the forecheck. The experience he had was definitely helpful to me. I had a lot of guys who were good to me and I want to do the same for them. If we’re going to win, we want the most out of everyone in this locker room.”

So how is the teacher doing?

“I guess you’d have to ask Brauner that,” Murray said with a smile.

The report card from the student says Murray is at a professor level.

“I had a little stint with him the first time I came up,” Braun said. “I feel this time I’m more confident to work off him. He’ll go into corners, knock guys over and knock out the puck and I’ll go and pick it up.”

When it comes to exiting the zone and pure defending, Murray and Braun are talking on the ice to know what the other is doing. Murray leaves Braun alone in the offensive zone.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray, right, of Sweden shoots the puck as Los Angeles Kings right wing Justin Williams dives for it during the third period of their NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, in Los Angeles. The Kings won 3-2 in an overtime shootout. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“He and I are different players, but at the same time, everybody has to defend and defending and breaking the puck out is where I do my communicating,” Murray said. “I don’t give him any tips on offense. He does that better than I do. I try to give pointers in different situations against certain players and certain teams. You get a pretty good feel for most of the teams. I think he’s really a mature player. A lot of young guys get overexcited and are running around trying to get noticed on defense. That’s how you get yourself in trouble. ”

Murray doesn’t want the communication to be one-sided as Braun isn’t an intern. He’s a working part of the Sharks cog and needs to have the necessary confidence.

“I think the toughest thing for a young player is to be vocal themselves,” Murray said. “Saying what they think and yelling on the ice is tough for the young player.”

“I should (talk) more, but he’s pretty good about it,” Braun said about learning his lessons. “I’ve got to get in the habit of talking more. I don’t want to yell the wrong thing. He makes me comfortable talking about stuff on the bench. Trying not to make the same mistakes twice is the whole goal.”

Buffalo Sabres' Cody McCormick (8) battles for the puck with San Jose Sharks' Douglas Murray (3), of Sweden, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Murray can see Braun’s talents and is encouraging him to use them while being smart about the timing.

“I was one of those D that came in and threw everything up the boards,” Murray said. “I kept it simple in the beginning. It’s a fine line. You don’t want to force plays, but if it’s there, make it. I know early in my career I wasn’t making plays in the middle because I was worried about making mistakes. He has to play the game and he has the courage and skill to do it.”

The support is appreciated by the rookie out of Minnesota.

“He doesn’t want me to just chip it up the boards. It doesn’t make breakouts very easy,” Braun said. “You have to get it into the middle and into the forward’s hands where they can handle it. If I make a good play, it makes everyone’s job easier. He encourages that.”

If Braun’s offensive side can find just a smidge of Murray’s defensive side while Boyle is out, Murray may have to give himself an A in the classroom.

“I’m just trying to not over play,” Braun said. “You can’t just run guys over and take the puck from them. He can, but some of the guys are pretty crafty with their spinoffs and you have to wait and take the puck from them. He seems to be a couple of steps in front of everyone out there. He’s a good guy to be out there with.”

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Glass, left, ducks from a punch from San Jose Sharks' Douglas Murray during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
s if being an Olympian isn’t validation enough, being asked to help develop younger players in another notch in Murray’s cap.

“It’s either that or because my partner went down, but I’ll take it as a compliment,” Murray said.

Most players have a mentor that assisted them early in their career. Perhaps Murray’s name will come up years from now like Hannan’s.

“Maybe when Brauny is asked that question down the road, he will answer Douglas,” McLellan said.

There’s no question the Sharks would’ve liked a better outcome Thursday against Vancouver, but the players felt the game was one of the most exciting ones they’ve ever played.

“You could really sense the excitement there, especially in the final few minutes,” defenseman Ian White said. “It was a lot of fun to play in front of an atmosphere like that. It was right up there (for fun) with any game I can remember with the flow going back and forth. You could feel both teams really wanted the game.”

The Sharks play hosts to the New York Rangers Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at . The game will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and

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