ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's not as if Marty Havlat wasn't aware Friday that his former team has more points than the one he now plays for.
"I watch the standings, I watch them like every other team," the Sharks forward said of the Minnesota Wild, the team he will face Saturday afternoon. "I know they're doing well."
Minnesota is third in the Western Conference with 36 points, and is 13-5-1 over its last 19 games. The Sharks are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, one point ahead of Dallas but only four points behind the Wild.
While Havlat concedes that he keeps an eye on the standings, he doesn't compare his numbers with those of Dany Heatley, the player Havlat was traded for in one of two blockbuster deals in the summer of 2011?
"No, not at all," Havlat said. "He does his best, I'm doing my best."
Hockey players are combative on the ice, but generally circumspect off it. Outsiders may declare that Minnesota has gotten the better of the trades to this point, but the players themselves generally won't go there, even when handed the opportunity to stir the pot.
Asked, for example, how he felt about the Sharks' current struggles, Wild forward Devin Setoguchi was diplomatic.
"Ah, I don't know. I mean, it's a tough year. It's such a condensed year, if a team has a bad stretch things can go bad for you," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "But just because they've been struggling doesn't mean they're not a good team. They have a lot of power out there, a lot of skill."
And on the notion that Minnesota got the better of the deals?
"Brent Burns is a great hockey player. ... Both teams traded for what they needed, so it's worked out," said Setoguchi, who has been on a tear with six goals and eight points in his last five games.
Setoguchi was a key element of the first trade that brought Burns to San Jose. The Sharks also sent prospect Charlie Coyle to the Wild, and the teams traded draft picks as well -- Minnesota getting San Jose's first-round selection, San Jose getting Minnesota's in the second round.
Heatley, too, gave the politically correct answer when the Minneapolis newspaper asked him about San Jose's recent troubles -- "Every team is in the dogfight so we're going to have play in a good game to beat 'em," he said -- then self-corrected when he was asked if he thought the Wild came out ahead in the trades.
"Yeah, I mean, obviously Coyle and Seto are playing really well right now. ... I won't comment on who is doing what. We're happy to have those two guys, and Mitchy as well. We like where our team is and we're looking forward to tomorrow," said Heatley, who has pounded the nets for 32 goals in 121 games since coming to Minnesota.
"Mitchy" is Torrey Mitchell, another former Shark on the Wild roster. When San Jose did not offer a contract extension, Mitchell signed a three-year, $5.7 million deal with Minnesota.
Burns did draw a little attention last season when he said, maybe half-jokingly, that he hoped the Wild would not win another game, drawing comparisons to not wishing the other person well when a relationship breaks up badly. All part of having a competitive nature, he said Friday, and ultimately nothing against the guys he will be facing on the ice.
"You're friends with those guys," he said. "You watch how they're doing and you talk to those guys a lot."
One person who won't weigh in on who wins any trade is Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
"That's not our job," he said. "Our job is to welcome the new players into the organization and get the most we can out of them. ... When it's all said and done, we're happy with the people we have here and we don't sit back and keep score of who won what.''
And he doesn't see Burns' recent success as a forward as something that necessarily brings things more into balance.
"I've always been of the belief that a good defenseman is harder to find than a top line forward," Melrose said. "That's why Burns -- he's always been intriguing because I look at him and I look at his physical ability, the way he skates -- is a guy that should be a very good number one or number two defenseman in the NHL."
From McLellan's perspective, where Burns plays is secondary.
"We'd like to have the team succeeding, winning more games than we're losing," the coach said. "When you look at our team as a whole and you say maybe we're not strong in this area and maybe we have depth in this area -- we've got to try and move people around. That's why this has happened. Burns has come in and been a very good forward for us."