Ex-Shark Justin Braun embracing Flyers' youth after offseason trade


Wednesday's season-opening loss to the Vegas Golden Knights was the first time the Sharks began a campaign without defenseman Justin Braun in the lineup since Oct. 8, 2011. 

Back then, Braun still was skating with the AHL's Worcester Sharks, trying to carve out a regular role with San Jose. Eight years later, he's in the NHL, but orange and black has replaced teal following an offseason trade to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Braun is expected to make his Flyers debut Friday in Prague against Chicago, and the 32-year-old lined up alongside 22-year-old Philly blueliner Ivan Provorov at Thursday's practice. The veteran recently told NBC Sports Philadelphia that he hopes to pass on what he absorbed during nine seasons in San Jose.

"It was a great experience," Braun said. "It kind of got me my start. Learned a lot from the guys there over the years, but excited to be in a new spot and everyone's been great so far. Looking forward to getting things going." 

Braun played at least 20 minutes per night in each of the last six seasons, and he suited up in every Sharks playoff game in San Jose's previous seven postseason runs. The Flyers have only made the playoffs in three of the last seven seasons, but Braun still thinks his playoff experience will have plenty of application in the regular season as Philly tries to get back to the postseason.

"You're in those high-pressure spots, [you know] not to panic," Braun said. "You've gotta just make the next play, you can't be flipping pucks for icings all the time. You just gotta take a deep breath. You know you're gonna be up 1-0 late in games, and you gotta shut the door and get those two points."

Braun grew into a veteran leader in San Jose, and he now will be the second-oldest skater -- and the third-oldest player overall -- on a Flyers roster brimming with players under the age of 25. The Flyers have high-scoring veterans like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek leading the way, but Philadelphia has a younger complexion than San Jose did a season ago. 

"What I like about the Flyers is a lot of youth coming in," Braun said. "You've got young energy. I've been playing with some older guys over the years. ... Obviously, the vets [like] Giroux and Voracek -- I've been watching them for years and seeing the skill they've got and the points they can put up. And just watching [goaltender] Carter Hart guy play, he's been great. He works hard every day."

Braun's possession metrics slipped over the last three years, but he still was a defenseman the Sharks relied upon at even strength and on the penalty kill, and the Sharks defense has to adjust to life without him.

[RELATED: Sharks could be out key contributors in rematch with Vegas]

In Braun's absence, longtime partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic started the 2019-20 season alongside reigning Norris Trophy finalist Brent Burns and Brenden Dillon should slide in with Erik Karlsson when the All-Star returns to the team. Dalton Prout was set to skate with rookie Mario Ferraro on San Jose's third pairing, but Karlsson's absence due to a "personal matter" Wednesday brought Tim Heed back into the lineup. 

The Sharks' new-look pairings should -- in theory, at least -- settle by the time Braun plays his first game at SAP Center as an opponent on Dec. 28. That won't make seeing Braun suit up in a new uniform any less odd for his old teammates, though. 

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