The Sharks defenseman exited the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol just in time to play in his 1,200th career game and extend a club-record streak to 628 consecutive games played during San Jose’s 8-7 shootout win over Arizona at SAP Center.
“A lot of luck,” Burns said, repeating for emphasis. “Luck comes into a lot of it.”
He could say it a third time, and it wouldn’t be overkill.
Captain Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl converted in the shootout while Burns was a team-best plus-4 as the hosts snapped a two-game losing streak playing for the first time in 12 nights.
Burns had to quarantine for 10 days after entering the league’s health and safety protocols on Dec. 16. His ironman streak — which started in November 2013 — would have ended if scheduled games on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 had not been postponed as the virus swept through the league.
Working out diligently in his home gym but unable to skate or practice, Burns received more good fortune when Monday’s game at Anaheim — just 11 days after his positive test — was postponed as well.
Burns, 36, cautioned he wouldn’t answer COVID-related questions on a Zoom call, and was reluctant to even talk about the achievement. He knows things were out of his control, and it took more than pure determination to reach this point.
“I’ve been very lucky to be around some really, really great people on and off the ice who have helped change the way I’ve thought about training,” Burns said.
A noted fitness freak, Burns credits Mike Potenza, who is in his 16th season as the Sharks’ director of strength and conditioning. The president of the NHL’s Strength Coaches Association, Potenza is renowned for creating programs tailored specifically to best fit individual needs year-round, whether a player is injured or healthy.
“Having Potsy has been a huge blessing,” Burns said. “To a lot of us he prolonged our careers and our health.”
Acquired from Minnesota in June of 2011, Burns was fourth in the league before Tuesday’s games with 25:54 of average ice time, third on the team in assists (15), shots (77) and had the fifth-most points with 17. He’s the first in franchise history to score in six straight while logging more than 26 minutes of ice time in each game, doing so from Oct. 30-Nov. 11.
Toward the end of that stretch — when the Sharks had a number of regulars in protocols — Burns passed Sergei Zubov on Nov. 9 for the most points by a defenseman with one team after being traded (549).
Shortly thereafter, Burns surpassed Patrick Marleau’s mark of 624 consecutive games with San Jose. Marleau, the NHL’s all-time games-played leader with 1,779, provided inspiration for Burns along with ex-teammate Joe Thornton.
“I always say it, but to be around Jumbo and Patty, there’s two people who really taught a lot of us how to take care of ourselves off the ice,” Burns said, “and do the little things that help us along the way.”
“I think every guy in that room, whether you played with them for 10 games, or for a couple hundred, you always learned something from those guys.”
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