SAN JOSE The tinkering on defense continues.
The Sharks third defense pair has been a work in progress this season, and on Thursday night against Pittsburgh Todd McLellan decided to dress Justin Braun and Jim Vandermeer over Jason Demers and Colin White, who were the third pair in the previous two games.
San Jose has eight healthy defensemen on its roster, and after Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray, McLellan has mixed and matched the remaining four since the start of the year. As surly as McLellan was after the 4-3 win over the Penguins, aggravated over the teams slow start, he liked what he saw from Braun and Vandermeer. That pairing was not responsible for Sharks slow start, he said.
For the most part, I thought they were consistent, he said. They werent part of our early problems at all. I thought Brauny played very well, and solid. Jimmy, for a guy whos been in and out and hasnt played a lot, he didnt look rusty like the rest of us.
Vandermeer registered an assist on Patrick Marleaus goal and was a 1, while Braun was scoreless and a 2. Braun generated a couple good scoring chances in overtime with low slap shots from the point that were deflected just wide on a couple of occasions.
While plusminus can sometimes be misleading, Vandermeer (3) and Braun (2) have a distinct advantage in that category ahead of White (-5) and Demers (-6), who own the worst two ratings on the team.
Heres how the Sharks third defense-pair has looked this season, keeping in mind that White was hurt for the games on Oct. 22 and Oct. 25, and Braun was not recalled from Worcester until Oct. 22.
108: White, Demers
1014: White, Demers
1015: White, Demers, Vandermeer
1017: White, Demers
1021: White, Demers
1022: Vandermeer, Braun
1025: Vandermeer, Braun
1028: White, Braun
1029: White, Demers
1031: White, Demers
113: Vandermeer, Braun