SAN JOSE – Sharks defenseman Brent Burns played through what appears to be a significant injury in the second half of last season, and his status for a shortened 2013 season is unclear.
Burns had surgery to repair a sports hernia and groin injury in late May, and has remained in the area to rehab.
“It happened last year. I played with it for the whole second half of the year. I played through it,” Burns said. “We didn’t really know what it was, found it, found out and tried to fix it.”
Burns was on the ice with some Sharks teammates on Thursday and Friday, but stayed out for only about 20 minutes on Friday. He hedged his bets when asked to put a percentage on the chance he would be in the lineup for a potential game on Jan. 19, when the NHL would like to begin a 48-game regular season.
“I don’t know if you’re going to get a comment on that one. I’m going to plead the fifth on that one,” Burns said.
Sharks management is not allowed to comment on Burns’ status, as the lockout is still in effect. Burns was, however, medically cleared on Oct. 9, just days before he would have been eligible to start collecting his $5.8 million salary.
Burns played in 81 of 82 games last season, missing only the final game before the All-Star break in late January. On Jan. 23 in Edmonton, he suffered what looked to be a knee injury after colliding with the Oilers’ Ales Hemsky. He was limping badly after that game, didn't play the next night in Calgary, but returned on Jan. 31 after the annual mid-season break.
If Burns was in fact injured the second half of the season, it’s not reflected in his stats. The 27-year-old had seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 46 games before the collision with Hemsky, and four goals and 16 assists for 20 points in 35 games after the break.
If Burns is unable to play at the start of the season (pending a new CBA agreement), the Sharks will have a big hole to fill on their back end. Jason Demers is already sidelined until at least the beginning of February with a broken wrist, according to his agent, while Justin Braun has been recovering from a hand injury. Braun should be “ready to play” from the outset if the season gets going, his agent said recently.
One possibility is bringing back Jim Vandermeer, who remains a free agent after spending last season with the Sharks. The Sharks could also take a look at Worcester defensemen Matt Irwin or Matt Tennyson, who are their most NHL ready prospects on defense.