SAN JOSE – Sharks defenseman Jason Demers probably won’t be in the lineup if the NHL begins on its season on the reported start date of Jan. 19, but his fractured wrist doesn’t appear to be a long-term injury.
Although his agent originally said the 24-year-old would miss four-to-six weeks after Demers got slashed during a game in Switzerland a week ago, Demers said that he’s still aiming to be in the lineup on opening night. He's currently wearing a half-cast that is able to be removed.
“I’m going to shoot for that and see how I feel next week,” Demers said at the Sharks’ practice facility.
One thing he doesn’t want to do is risk any further damage.
[REWIND: Jason Demers could miss significant time with wrist fracture]
“I’ll take my time and make sure I do it right. It’s a short season, so I don’t want to be out for the first two months.”
The injury comes at an unfortunate time, but the Sharks’ front office was likely encouraged by its defenseman’s performance in Finland, where he played for Karpat of the SM-liiga. In 30 games, Demers had five goals and 16 assists for 21 points.
Demers was poised for a breakout year in 2011-12 after a strong season the year before, but struggled out of the gate and was in and out of the lineup all season. His point total dropped from 24 points (2g, 22a) in 2010-11 to 13 last year (4g, 9a) in 57 games.
Even though it’s going to be a shortened season, it’s a big one for Demers, who will be a restricted free agent this summer.
“It was an amazing experience [in Finland],” he said. “It’s something I think I needed, especially after last year was disappointing for me, and I know for everybody that was pulling for me. It was good to get over there and get a lot of ice time and just get my confidence back, and get my game back to where it was a couple years ago.”
Demers' plan is to meet with doctors this week, and get back on the ice at some point next week to test the wrist.
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Demers isn’t the only Sharks defenseman that could be unavailable on opening night. Brent Burns had offseason sports hernia surgery and skated on Monday at Sharks Ice, but did not appear to be pushing himself very hard and was skating more in circles, thus avoiding hard starts and stops.
Justin Braun suffered a hand injury in December while playing in Finland, but was not at the practice rink on Monday. His agent told CSNCalifornia.com that Braun “should be ready” for the first game.
Expect Worcester defensemen Matt Irwin and Matt Tennyson, neither of which has played an NHL game, to fly across the country for training camp which is likely to begin this weekend. The Sharks will have approximately 25 players at camp, and forward James Sheppard will almost assuredly be one of them, as well. Other possibilities are John McCarthy, Frazer McLaren and Brandon Mashinter.
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Along with Burns, eight other Sharks roster players skated at Sharks Ice on Monday, and they were allowed to use the team’s official locker room for the first time since the framework for a CBA was put in place.
Brad Stuart, Patrick Marleau, Antti Niemi, Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture, Marty Havlat, Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray took part in what was about an hour-long skate, and were joined by former Sharks Torrey Mitchell, Evgeni Nabokov and Jonathan Cheechoo. Several “extras” were also out there.
It’s expected that more and more players will begin trickling back to the rink in the next few days. Captain Joe Thornton, for example, is flying back from Switzerland on Wednesday.