The Sharks are back home, so maybe time for an assessment of sorts now that this zig-zag of a road trip is in the rear-view mirror.

The Sharks went 3-1-1, grabbing seven of 10 points. Yes, they stole those two points in Vancouver, but, as Todd McLellan noted, they've had points stolen from them this season, too. No one ever said hockey was always fair.

But the bottom line is they picked up seven points, they started the trip five points behind Anaheim for the Pacific Division lead, they finished it just one point behind the Ducks. They similarly improved their status in the Western Conference, though that's less relevant because of the new method of seeding teams for the playoffs.

And they managed to do it without the two players -- it has become eminently clear -- that hold the key to their ultimate playoff fate. With Brent Burns and Raffi Torres, the Sharks are an elite force to be reckoned with; without them, they're still a good hockey team, but there are a lot of those in the NHL.

Torres showed his value last season. Burns? With him in the lineup, the Sharks were 7-0-1; without him, they're 6-3-4.

Which only makes the lack of information about the specifics of his injury all the more frustrating as it's hard to assess this team without knowing the likelihood he will be a factor going forward. Yes, we can all speculate about the problem because it's hard to see how a stick to the mouth would cause him to miss 13 games so far. Feel free. But I try to stay out of the speculating business when it comes to medical matters.

What we do know is that on Oct. 27, general manager Doug Wilson said in Ottawa that it was "fair to say" the injury to Burns was not expected to be long-term. That was three weeks ago.

And in Vancouver on Thursday, Todd McLellan indicated that it wasn't a case of Burns getting a little better every day. Burns, in fact, reverted back to the no-contact jersey after taking part in more physical drills at one point.

"There's days where I think he's really close and there's other days when you want to do some work with him and he doesn't seem able to do it," the coach said, though backing away from the term setback when that was suggested.