SAN JOSE, Calif. – Traded for the first time in his career, Jannik Hansen was unsure what to expect when he joined the San Jose Sharks last March after 10 years in the Vancouver Canucks’ organization.
But the 31-year-old Dane, who was then only a year removed from a personal-best 22-goal season in the NHL, could never have envisioned being a healthy scratch for six straight games only a couple of weeks into his first full campaign in San Jose.
But then, Hansen never imagined he would have only two goals in 29 league and playoff games for the Sharks.
"No, of course not," he said after a Saturday morning skate. "You don’t foresee this. We were winning, losing, winning, losing. There wasn’t really anything I did do or didn’t do. But we made some changes and started winning, and suddenly (sitting out) one game turned into two, three, four, five, six. All of a sudden you’re out almost two weeks. It’s not easy. It’s almost like coming back from injury."
Coach Peter DeBoer brought Hansen back into the lineup for the Sharks’ 5-1 home loss Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which ended a four-game San Jose winning streak without Hansen. But the winger hoped to play again against his old team Saturday night.
"Whether the first one needs to go in to open the floodgates, I don’t know," Hansen said of a scoring drought that has seen him gather just a single assist in eight games this season. "So far, it hasn’t really happened. I try to work on it all the time. Make sure you score in practice, make sure you feel like your next shot might go in instead of feeling like you might need an open net.
"There’s always work in progress. I’m struggling a little bit offensively. I haven’t created or produced as much as I’d like to. That’s one of the reasons I wasn’t playing. I’m trying to get back into the groove of things and contribute wherever possible."
Hansen hadn’t been a healthy scratch since former Canucks coach John Tortorella, just because, sat him out the final game of the 2013-14 season. Before that, Hansen said, he hadn’t been scratched since early in his NHL career.
"It’s not something I want to get used to," he said. "I want to play. It’s frustrating sitting out. You want to be involved in practices, games, whatever it’s going to be. Sitting out is never fun, healthy or injured.
"I’d still rather be a healthy scratch than injured. But it’s not easy sitting out and then jumping back in. You know the pressure is on."
Loui Eriksson knows the feeling. With just 11 goals in 69 games since signing a six-year, $36-million free-agent contract 16 months ago, Eriksson returns to the Canucks lineup after missing four weeks with a knee injury.
His inclusion will be a talking point in Vancouver because Canucks coach Travis Green is removing 21-year-old prospect Jake Virtanen to make room beside Daniel and Henrik Sedin – Hansen’s former linemates.