SAN JOSE -- Brent Burns could be excused if he doesn't fully understand all the fuss being made about his transformation from defenseman to forward the past two games.
Because at 28, he's been there and done that a few times.
Though the NHL listed him on defense when the Minnesota Wild made him the 20th overall pick of the 2003 entry draft, Burns had been skating at right wing for the Brampton Battalion of the OHL. And he was playing forward well enough to earn a spot on Team Canada at the prestigious 2004 World Junior Championship and skate on the "Goof Line" with two future NHL all-stars, Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings.
None of which is to say that the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Burns isn't getting as big a kick out of his latest stint at forward on a line with two other All-Stars -- Joe Thornton and Logan Couture -- as the San Jose fans who have welcomed Burns' two goals and one assist since leaving the blue line.
"If somebody says, 'Hey, we want to try you here. We think it'll help the team,' fine. That's exciting for me," Burns said Friday before the Sharks flew to Los Angeles for Saturday night's rematch with the Los Angeles Kings. "I think sometimes it's fun, too. Other guys are laughing and joking."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan is as familiar with Burns' history as anyone. McLellan coached Burns during his 2004-05 season with the Houston Aeros of the AHL, Minnesota's development team. At the time, the Wild front office wasn't sure where Burns should play.
"When he was sent to us in Houston, there was some debate -- Is Brent a d-man or is he a forward?" McLellan said Friday. "We had him for the full season. We used him in different roles. There were times when I felt frustration for him because he was, 'What am I?' As a young guy trying to find your way, that can be confusing at times. But he handled it well."
This time, McLellan had multiple motives for wanting Burns to switch positions in a season where he had missed 18 of the first 24 games with separate injuries. For one thing, the Sharks have been desperate for offense. For another, Burns had struggled in the six games he played on the blue line starting Feb. 9.
At forward, he's made the transition look easy. In his first game, Burns one-timed a pass from Scott Gomez past St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen. In his second, he pounced on a Couture rebound before Kings goalie Jonathan Quick could recover for the game's first goal, then stole the puck from Drew Doughty and fed Couture for San Jose's final tally.
Still, Burns acknowledged the move has its challenges.
"There's parts of it that are easier, there's parts of it that are harder," he said. "Playing forward is "obviously a faster game, a harder game on your lungs and your legs. Things are happening fast. But then there's less -- I don't want to say pressure, because the pressure is different. You've got to produce, but you can try things. It's different."
McLellan said the game he's getting from Burns is familiar.
"We saw that in the minors -- a powerful guy that kind of plays free, he roams around and is aggressive, protects pucks well, shoots it, plays with an energy and an excitement," the coach said.
And McLellan hopes that style becomes contagious:
"If he can get in on the forecheck, if he can race pucks down on icings, if he can win battles along the boards and he can get in the slot and release shots -- if I'm one of the players on the bench who has played forward all along, I'm sitting there going, 'I can do that too. I've got to take it up a notch a little bit.' "'
Sharks (12-8-6) at Los Angeles (14-10-2), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA