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Preview/Lines #65: What’s Ideal Playing Time for Burns and Karlsson?

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Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson

If you’re the San Jose Sharks, it’s easy to look ahead to next season.

There are 18 games left, and the playoffs are a distant dream at this point.

One area that’s important for the Sharks next season: What’s the proper workload for 37-year-old Brent Burns and 31-year-old Erik Karlsson?

San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner has addressed that over the last two weeks.

Burns is averaging 26:19 a night, but when Karlsson has been out this year, he’s averaged over 28 minutes a game. That’s far from ideal, according to Boughner.

“You’d love to keep him around 24-25 minutes — which is still extremely high,” he said. “You add on five more minutes, it’s a major difference in anybody’s game. Where he’s at his best, yeah, somewhere around that 24-25 minutes.”

How about Karlsson? Karlsson averages 23:19 a night.

“Karly, from what I’ve seen over the last few years, I think he tops out at about 22, 23 minutes,” Boughner shared. “That’s a real good spot for him.”

So what happens if Burns and Karlsson go beyond Boughner’s limits? Burns has surpassed 25 minutes in 35 of his 64 appearances, while Karlsson has played more than 23 minutes in 25 of his 41 contests. What suffers with those extra two, three, or four minutes?

“You ask people to be heavy and hard on the other team’s skill, and it’s hard to be physical when you’re playing that much,” the former defenseman noted. “With Burnzie [and Karlsson], we want them to jump into play a little more. We want them to be a part of that offense.

“If you’re playing that much, you’re almost looking to get off the ice as you get out of your zone because you’ve defended for 15-20 seconds and you don’t have that pop to jump up and be part of the offense. Those are things that will suffer. Or you start stick-checking a little bit. You’re not using using your body, being physical.”

Boughner, of course, is the head coach, so he’s ultimately responsible for how much Burns and Karlsson play. But it’s not as simple as cutting Burns and Karlsson’s ice time and giving more minutes to Mario Ferraro, Jaycob Megna, Ryan Merkley, Nicolas Meloche, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, or whomever.

You have to trust the guys that you’re giving more playing time to, and San Jose just doesn’t have that belief in their defensive core beyond Burns, Karlsson, and Ferraro.

It’d be good for the Sharks, if they want to return to the playoffs, to find a true No. 4 defenseman soon, while Burns and Karlsson are still playing at a high level. If you thought it was Jake Middleton, who had played well with Karlsson this year, maybe Doug Wilson, Joe Will, and company didn’t think so because they traded Middleton for a third starting goalie in Kaapo Kahkonen.

Ultimately, the San Jose Sharks and Burns and Karlsson will be the better for it if they can keep their minutes in line with Boughner’s vision.

Can they next year?

San Jose Sharks (28-28-8)

James Reimer draws the start tonight; Kaapo Kahkonen is tabbed for Wednesday in Arizona.

The San Jose Sharks averted disaster again as Logan Couture avoid serious injury after he left Thursday’s game in Edmonton early:

Boughner Hopes Just Day-to-Day for Couture Upper-Body Injury

He won’t play tonight, but Boughner expects him to be available this Wednesday at Arizona.

Anaheim Ducks

This is how the Ducks lined up in their last game on Mar. 23:

Ryan Getzlaf was just activated off injured reserve, so he should be in tonight:

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the Ducks and San Jose Sharks is at 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on ESPN+ and NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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