Demers' confidence grows with Sharks

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Demers' confidence grows with Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Tuesday in our Sharks Talk blog, we mentioned that Justin Brauns reassignment to AHL should be viewed as a vote of confidence in Jason Demers. After sitting out for eight of 10 games, Demers has played in four of the last six and been a much steadier presence on the teams blue line.

I ran that theory by Todd McLellan on Wednesday morning.

Yes. I think thats a real good point, he said. Since Demers extended stay out of the lineup, his play has improved, remarkably. Hes been much more consistent and much more reliable. Thats got to make him feel good, and it makes us feel good, to the point where we feel we can go to seven defensemen and make sure Brauny stays sharp and keep playing.

Demers himself also senses an improvement, after he struggled with turnovers and positioning for essentially the entire month of October. He sat for five straight games to start November, finally getting back in on Nov. 17 against Detroit.

I think Ive felt a lot better and looked a lot better the last few games Ive been out there, he said. Its a process. My game just wasnt where I wanted it to be, so I just had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what made me successful and then apply it on the ice. I think its been getting better, and I feel more and more comfortable out there.

Demers, a native of Dorval, Quebec, will play for the first time in his career on Thursday night against the team he grew up rooting for as a kid. In fact, his family members are still huge fans of Les Habitants, a.k.a. the Montreal Canadiens.

I grew up really watching them and cheering for them, he said. Now, I get to try and beat them, and hopefully beat them.

The hardest convert may be his grandfather.

My grandfather is a huge Montreal Canadiens fan, so Ill probably be calling him after, said Demers. If we win or lose, well be talking hockey, thats for sure.

And which jersey will he be wearing for the game?

Hell be wearing teal tomorrow. If hes not, hes going to hear about it.

As for Braun, the 24-year-old will get a chance to play much more regularly in the American Hockey League. Braun struggled in Mondays 2-0 loss to the Kings, including a turnover that led directly to the first goal, but McLellan wanted to make it clear that was not the reason he was sent back to Worcester.

I know Brauny made some mistakes in L.A., but thats not why he went down, said the coach. We werent going to play him against Montreal, and he needs to play some games.

McLellan had nothing but praise for the 24-year-old Braun and made sure to pass that along to the player himself.

Brauny came in here to McLellan's office, and Ill keep what I told him between us, but you might be surprised what I told him how much we believe in him and where I think he fits, said McLellan. But, he needs to play. He needs to play.

Instant Replay: Sharks' streak snapped by Sens in final minute

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USATSI

Instant Replay: Sharks' streak snapped by Sens in final minute

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Chris Kelly scored with a little more than a minute left in regulation, pushing the Senators to a 4-2 win over the Sharks at SAP Center on Wednesday night.

On the deciding goal, Justin Braun misplayed a puck at the defensive blue line, and Kelly raced ahead on a partial breakaway before chipping it through Martin Jones at 18:54.

San Jose outshot Ottawa 37-17 for the game, and out-attempted the Senators 78-36, but lost for just the second time in their last eight games (6-2-0).

Ottawa won its fifth straight against San Jose, improving to 1-1 on its four game road trip.

Despite a lopsided advantage in shots and shot attempts throughout the night, the Sharks trailed 2-1 to start the third period. Brent Burns got the equalizer in a four-on-four situation, though, ripping a wrist shot from the top of the circle through Mike Condon at 6:30.

The Sharks had the better of the scoring chances in the first period, but it was Ottawa that claimed a 2-0 lead after the opening stanza.

Mark Stone’s power play goal at 3:42 opened the scoring. A shot by Mike Hoffman deflected off of the skates of Paul Martin and then Burns before Stone found it in front of the net.

Three-and-a-half minutes later Erik Karlsson made it 2-0, wiring a wrist shot through Jones after the Sharks were caught running around in their own end. Jones appeared to be screened by Tom Pyatt on the goal at 7:19.

Condon made some clutch saves later in the period, including a pair on Joe Pavelski, who was denied on a Sharks power play with 4:30 to go and then again at even strength with 1:52 remaining before the break. Pavelski was around the net all night, finding the post on a breakaway in the second period and getting robbed by Condon’s glove early in the third.

The Sharks kept pressuring the Senators in the middle frame, finally breaking through on the power play. A laser from Couture at 8:19 cleanly beat the Ottawa goalie for his seventh goal in the last 10 games.

Couture was playing despite minor surgery on Saturday, when he had a screw from a previous operation that had been bothering him removed from his right ankle.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau had an empty net goal to cap the scoring.

Special teams

The Sharks finished 1-for-6 on the power play, and are 6-for-25 over their last eight games. They generated 11 power play shots against the Senators in more than 10 minutes of power play time.

San Jose surrendered a power play goal against for the fifth time in the last six games, going 9-for-14 over that span. They came through late in the third with 3:58 to go in regulation when Patrick Marleau was issued an interference minor.

In goal

Jones was making his first start against Ottawa as a member of the Sharks, as Alex Stalock played both games last season. He took the loss with three goals allowed on just 16 shots.

Condon improved to 4-1-1 on the year with 35 saves.

Lineup

David Schlemko did not play due to injury, and is day-to-day. Dylan DeMelo played in his third game of the season, all coming within the last two weeks.

Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan returned after missing the previous three games with a finger injury. Goalie Craig Anderson was not with the club for personal reasons, as his wife is battling cancer.

Up next

The Sharks will visit Anaheim for the first time this season on Friday. The Sharks are 1-1 against the Ducks this season, both at SAP Center.

San Jose hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday for its second game in as many nights.

NHL Gameday: Couture in, Schlemko out for Sharks vs Sens

NHL Gameday: Couture in, Schlemko out for Sharks vs Sens

Programming note – Sharks-Senators coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 15-9-1, 31 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Senators: 15-9-2, 32 points, 2nd Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***After undergoing a minor surgical procedure on Saturday to get a screw removed from his previously repaired ankle, Logan Couture is good go to against the Senators. Couture has eight points (6g, 2a) in his last nine games.

Defenseman David Schlemko, though, is out with an apparent leg or ankle injury after he was hurt – but later returned – against Montreal on Friday. Pete DeBoer indicated Schlemko’s injury isn’t serious.

“I came back from our weekend off and all the news was positive, so I would say he’s day-to-day,” said the coach.

Dylan DeMelo will draw in on the third pair with Brenden Dillon. Mirco Mueller was also recalled from the Barracuda.

***The Sharks resume their schedule after a rare four-day break, and will attempt to pick up where they left off. Friday’s 2-1 win over the Canadiens was their sixth in the last seven games.

“I know we’re recharged mentally and physically, but we’ve got to find that level again as quickly as possible and hopefully it doesn’t take too long tonight,” Pete DeBoer said.

Couture said the approach would be to, “just try and keep it simple. Stay out of the box, forecheck on them, get some shifts where we’re not caught in our own end.”

***Ottawa will be playing the second of a difficult four-game road trip. They were spanked by the Penguins on Monday, 8-5, and flew across the country on Tuesday.

If they are looking for sympathy for their schedule, they won’t get it from the Sharks’ coach.

“I find it sometimes a little comical when I hear Eastern teams complaining about travel and road trips. I read something that they were not happy with their schedule. Give me a break,” DeBoer said with a smile. “It’s what we deal with, and you do the best you can."

Ottawa is 6-4-0 on the road, while San Jose is 9-3-0 at SAP Center.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Martin Jones. The Sharks goalie has been a rock during the team’s recent upswing, and his 1.99 goals-against average for the season in good for fifth in the NHL (minimum eight games played). Since getting pulled against the Penguins on Nov. 5, Jones is 8-2-1 with a 1.46 GAA and .945 SP and two shutouts. On Monday, he was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week.

Senators: Erik Karlsson. Karlsson leads the Senators in scoring with 24 points (6g, 18a), surpassing Brent Burns for most in the league among defensemen. The two-time Norris Trophy winner and Ottawa captain posted four points on Monday in Pittsburgh (1g, 3a), and has nine points in his last eight games. He’s third in the league in average time on ice (27:16 per game).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Kevin Labanc – Tommy Wingels – Micheal Haley

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Senators
Mike Hoffman – Derick Brassard – Mark Stone
Ryan Dzingel – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Zack Smith – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Tom Pyatt
Buddy Robinson – Chris Kelly – Chris Neil

Andreas Englund – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Chris Wideman

Mike Condon (starter)
Andrew Hammond

INJURIES/SCRATCHES

Sharks: David Schlemko (lower body) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Senators: Marc Methot (hip), Fredrik Claesson (lower body), Curtis Lazar (concussion) are Craig Anderson (personal) are out. 

QUOTEABLE

“I think I have a lot to improve. I think I’m pretty happy the way I’m playing two ways. I think I’m responsible defensively and creating scoring chances, but just kind of not being able to get on the scoreboard enough. I want to score more.” – Joonas Donskoi