Sharks notes: Gomez skates again; Stuart's second debut

Sharks notes: Gomez skates again; Stuart's second debut
January 21, 2013, 2:15 pm
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A decision on Scott Gomez is not expected until Tuesday at the earliest. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

EDMONTON – Free agent forward Scott Gomez continues his evaluation period with the Sharks, and for the first time skated with the full team on Monday in Edmonton. Gomez was wearing a teal jersey with the other bottom six forwards and scratches.

A decision on Gomez is not expected until Tuesday at the earliest. The Sharks are evidently making sure that Gomez is in top physical condition before they take a chance on the former Montreal Canadiens player who was recently bought out of the final two years of his contract.

Head coach Todd McLellan was impressed with Gomez on Monday.

“For me, the fitness test is, can he keep up in practice right now? If you can’t, you’re not fit,” McLellan said. “From what I’ve seen - today was the first day he skated with us - he looked quick. The effort level in practice was strong.”

It’s uncertain just where Gomez, 33, would fit on the Sharks’ roster. The team is carrying the full 23 players at the moment, and that doesn’t include Jason Demers, who has not yet been medically cleared (fractured wrist). Known as a playmaking center when he’s effectively on his game, Gomez could find a home on the team’s third line between Tommy Wingels and TJ Galiardi, a spot now occupied by 35-year-old Michal Handzus.

McLellan and Sharks management have been insistent that Handzus is a different player than the one who battled through a hip injury in 2011-12 and was generally ineffective, though. In fact, McLellan recently called Handzus a “changed man” from the player he had last season.

On Sunday in Calgary, Handzus skated more than 16 minutes, including 1:31 shorthanded. He was on the ice for Lee Stempniak’s power play goal in the first period for the Flames’ only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Sharks.

Stuart makes his second Sharks debut

It was a successful second debut in a Sharks jersey for defenseman Brad Stuart, who currently makes up half of San Jose’s top defense pair with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Each of those players finished a +1, and Stuart saw 18:41 of ice time (including nearly three minutes shorthanded).

“It felt good. It was strange, but it was good,” Stuart said after the Sharks’ skate at the Terwillegar Rec Centre. “I was excited about it, and to get that first game out of the way is nice. I’ll start to feel a little more comfortable, I think, now that we’ve all gotten back to the swing of things.”

Stuart likes the dynamic so far with his new partner, Vlasic.

“He’s a good, smart defenseman, and those are always the easiest guys to play with. It will take us a few games to kind of learn how to read off of each other a little bit better, but I think for the most part it’s been good,” he said.

McLellan said: “Both of them can get up on the rush. Both of them can be activated. They’ve both played in that system and they understand it fully. It gives us two pretty good defenders, and we feel comfortable playing them against anybody’s top line.”

Stuart’s new/old team fared much better than his most recent one. The Detroit Red Wings lost 6-0 to St. Louis in perhaps the most surprising game of the NHL’s opening night on Saturday. The Red Wings, of course, lost Stuart as well as one of the greatest players of all-time in Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired.

Stuart didn’t see the game, but certainly heard about it.

“You lose a guy like Nick, it’s a pretty big loss. Not just on the ice, but a guy that everyone looked to before the game and between periods, [and] somewhat of a stabilizing force in the room,” Stuart said. “To lose someone like that is big, but they do have enough talent over there. It was a tough start, playing up against St. Louis, a good team and they play hard.

“It’s one game, there’s no need to read too much into it.”

Demers improving

Jason Demers continues to skate hard in preparation for his return, and was on the ice again on Monday. He stayed out later than his teammates with assistant coach Jim Johnson, and was seen taking wrist shots but not yet winding up for slappers.

McLellan offered no timeframe on Demers’ return, but it’s obvious the 24-year-old blueliner is improving.

Demers’ return date has been in flux since he was injured in the Spengler Cup Final in Switzerland. When Demers was hurt on Dec. 31, it was originally reported that he would miss three weeks. Demers’ agent told that the timeframe was 4-to-6 weeks, before the Sharks said at the start of training camp it would be closer to the original three weeks.

It’s now been three weeks and a day since the injury.

When Demers is ready, the Sharks will likely reassign defenseman Nick Petrecki to Worcester.