April 29, 2016 By Paul Gackle

Rink Notes: Sharks’ Donskoi Plans To ‘Forget About’ Friendship With Preds’ Rinne

SAN JOSE — There’s no crying in baseball and no friendship during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

In Joonas Donskoi’s world, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne isn’t just a Finnish national hero and one of the top goalies in the NHL, he’s also a respected friend.

But when the Sharks and Predators square off at the SAP Center for Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series on Friday, Rinne will be just another obstacle standing in between Donskoi and hockey’s ultimate prize.

“It’s going to be fun,” Donskoi said. “We’re good friends off the ice, but we’re going to forget about that for a while. Now, we’re going to play hockey.”

Donskoi’s relationship with Rinne dates back to the summer of 2010 when the 24-year-old rookie completed his first season of professional hockey in the Finnish Liiga with Karpat. The Predators goalie was home in Finland for the summer, training with his former squad.

After that, Donskoi and Rinne trained together regularly during the offseason and they wound up being teammates on Team Finland at the 2015 IIHF World Championships last spring.

But Donskoi won’t be distracted by sentimentality once the pucks drops on the series. Rinne is entering Game 1 with a career .945 save percentage against the Sharks in 20 meetings and Donskoi’s line will need to produce if the team is going to advance to the Western Conference finals.

The 2014-15 Vezina Trophy finalist also stopped 62 of 64 shots in the last two games of the Predators first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks.

Donskoi said he isn’t planning to communicate with Rinne away from the ice during the series.

“I met him during the regular season, so now it’s just concentrate on our own game,” the Finnish rookie said.

Norris Trophy Finalist: The debate is officially over: Brent Burns is a defenseman, and a pretty good one at that.

The 31-year-old blue liner became the first Sharks defenseman in franchise history to be named a finalist for the Norris Trophy on Friday, joining Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.

After spending a year-and-a-half at forward, Burns returned to the blue line last season and the move was received with mixed reviews. But this year, Burns put together a remarkably-prolific campaign on the Sharks backend to earn the Norris nod.

Burns set franchise records for goals (27) and points (75) by a defenseman this year while also becoming the first blue liner in league history other than Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque to record more than 350 shots on goal in a season.

“We are extremely proud of Brent and thrilled that he is getting the recognition he deserves,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a press statement. “He has worked extremely hard to be an elite-level defenseman and has been an integral part of our team this season.”

Blocking Shea: Despite playing only five games in the first round, the Sharks managed to finish third among 16 teams in blocked shots with 115 in their series with the Los Angeles Kings.

Time and time again, the Sharks stepped into shooting lanes and sacrificed their bodies to stop the puck from getting through, including three crucial blocks in final minute of Game 4.

Shot blocking will be even more important against the Predators, who boast the highest-scoring blue line in the NHL, and even more painful against Shea Weber, who’s been known to hit 100 miles per hour on the gun.

Alternate captain Logan Couture said the velocity of Weber’s shot won’t dissuade the Sharks from laying out when necessary.

“He shoots the puck hard, a lot of guys in this league shoot the puck hard. At this time of the year, if it’s your turn, you have to get into that lane to block it,” he said.

Head coach Peter DeBoer said his team won’t be thinking about who’s shooting the puck when they step into lanes in the defensive zone. Shot blocking is instinctual.

“When you stand in front of those [shots], 10 miles per hour is a difference, but it’s not a difference,” he said. “That puck’s still coming, and it’s still coming pretty hard, so I don’t think the guys are looking at who it is. We’ve got an overall team commitment to sacrifice in that area and everybody’s been doing it.”

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