SAN JOSE There may be just two months left in the regular season, but the battle for roster spots in still going strong for the San Jose Sharks.
Andrew Murrays departure the veteran forward was waived by the club on Monday morning, as it hopes to reassign him to Worcester was a reminder of that competition. Players like Benn Ferriero, John McCarthy, Jim Vandermeer and Tommy Wingels are all expected to compete for either playing time or a spot on the team when everyone is back and healthy.
Todd McLellan said after Mondays practice that with Murray now off of the active roster, it gives us an opportunity to evaluate some of the other younger players the John McCarthys, and Wingels, and the Ferrieros while they are here, to see what we have and where they fit in.
The Sharks fourth line and their roster, really has been in a state of flux since Marty Havlat was hurt in late December. Wingels, Ferriero and McCarthy were all still with the AHLs Worcester Sharks when Havlat suffered a partially torn hamstring on Dec. 17 against Ottawa.
Ferriero got the first chance, and was recalled immediately after Havlat went down. He scored goals in three of his first six games back, but since then, has just three points in 13 games despite playing mostly on the second line. Ferriero was scratched Feb. 2 at home against Dallas before returning in Phoenix on Saturday on the fourth line.
McCarthy was recalled in time for the game on Jan. 21 in Vancouver, with Ryane Clowe and Wingels both hurt. Hes scoreless in five games on the fourth line.
Vandermeers spot on the roster is safe for now, as he provides defensive depth and has the ability to play as a physical forward, too, which he did in the three games prior to Saturday in Phoenix when he was a healthy scratch.
REWIND: Vandermeer adjusting to life as a forward
We really feel comfortable playing him as a forward, McLellan said. But, as a reminder to us and to him, hes still a defenseman. If we need one, he provides us tremendous depth, but with the ability to go up front thats also nice to have.
Wingels, meanwhile, is still recovering from an apparent left shoulder injury he suffered on Jan. 19 against Ottawa. He has resumed skating and theres an outside chance he could play Friday against Chicago, although his return during the teams long road trip looks more likely.
The 23-year-old Wingels may be the most intriguing of the bunch, and played the best game of his brief NHL career just prior to getting hurt. On Jan. 17 against Calgary, the Evanston, Illinois native played a career-high 21 minutes and 23 seconds on the teams top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
He was asked if the timing of his injury made it that much more frustrating.
I think any time you get hurt theres frustration, Wingels said. There was a good opportunity to play. You just try to work yourself back into the lineup now and go from there.
He did play some good games, McLellan said. We gave him every opportunity to have an impact on the game.
His injury set him back a little bit, but with that being said, once we get bodies healthy its going to be a competitive environment for not only ice time, but for roster spots. We cant keep everybody. Given the opportunity and the time on the ice, they have to make good on it, because we will have to get down in numbers.
James Sheppard skated with the Sharks again on Monday, and still wants to return to a competitive game by March 1. In all likelihood, that would come with Worcester on a conditioning assignment.
He still feels pain in his right knee after an ATV accident in the summer of 2010, but doesnt notice it as much now when hes on the ice.
Once you get warmed up the pain kind of leaves, which is nice. I think your body gets warmed up so naturally it feels better. Then, just the adrenaline and having so many things coming at you takes it away, Sheppard said. I think afterwards its a bit there, but I dont really care about that, as long as you feel good during the game I can deal with that.
Hes still not ready to play yet, though.
The coaches have watched enough hockey to realize when someone is ready and someone is not. Its going to be kind of a collaboration. We both have to agree that Im ready to play, he said.