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.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.