There were times in Minnesota that “defenseman” Brent Burns played wing, but it was always as a fourth-liner. In San Jose, the popular former Wild wildman has played forward the past six games, but as a top-liner.
In Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Wild, Burns played on the right side of former Wild Martin Havlat and future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton.
“I love it. I mean, Jumbo Joe will probably go down as one of the top players to ever play the game,” Burns said before a five-shot effort against his old team. “I just put that stick down, and Jumbo will find it.”
In the 2004 world juniors, Burns played on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Jeff Carter called the “Goof Troop.”
“I was a forward as a kid growing up, but I’ve played D a long time, so I’m pretty comfortable back there,” Burns said. “It takes awhile getting used to a different way of skating and breathing. It’s a totally different game.”
Burns loves the Northern California lifestyle. He’s learned how to surf in Santa Cruz and does that often, and he’s an avid bicyclist, “You’re in the mecca for biking. There’s a 9½-mile climb six minutes from my house.”
‘We settled it’
Torrey Mitchell, who played five years for the Sharks, played his first game against San Jose since signing a three-year deal with Minnesota last summer.
In the second period, took on former teammate Tommy Wingels in his third career fight.
“We don’t like each other, and we settled it,” Wingels said, straight-faced. “Just kidding.”
Mitchell said it was “weird” playing the Sharks and the fight occurred because he hacked the Sharks’ Scott Gomez after a faceoff.
“Good guy. No hard feelings,” Mitchell said of Wingels.
‘All over again’
James Sheppard, the 2006 first-round pick who scored 11 goals and 49 points in 224 games for the Wild before being traded to San Jose for a 2013 third-round pick, played his first game against Minnesota.
Sheppard missed two full seasons after breaking his kneecap in an ATV accident before the 2010-11 season. The injury required three surgeries the past two years. He has three assists in 22 games and is searching for his first goal since Dec. 11, 2009.
“It was such an intricate, interesting injury that there was no real playbook what to do,” Sheppard said. “It was pretty traumatic. There were days where I felt good, felt normal, so I got a taste that it was possible. I knew my career wasn’t over. If you can feel good one day, why can’t it be every day?”
After playing at AHL Worcester during the lockout, Sheppard returned to the NHL on Jan. 22 in Edmonton.
“It was like my first game all over again, only even more nerve-racking,” Sheppard said.
Burns is happy for his longtime Wild and Sharks teammate. “People don’t really realize how hard that is mentally on a guy,” Burns said. “What he’s been through is incredible and how he handled it, it’s amazing.”
Goalie Josh Harding, who hasn’t played since Feb. 7, took to the ice for the first time in pads for 45 minutes on Saturday morning. … Defenseman Tom Gilbert (lower body) returned after missing two games. Nate Prosser and Brett Clark were scratched. Left wing Mike Rupp (lower body) missed his third game in a row … The Wild is 11-3-1 at home, 7-1-1 in the past nine … In just 30 games, Ryan Suter already ranks fifth on the Wild’s all-time single-season assists chart (24, 13 from team record) … The Wild has power-play goals in 11 of the past 13 games.