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.