SAN JOSE -- Jason Demers is likely to return to the Sharks’ lineup on Friday as they host Columbus in the final game before the Olympic break.
Demers has missed the last three games with a groin injury that was bothering him even before he came out after the Sharks’ loss in Calgary on Jan. 30.
“All signs point to yes,” said Demers, when asked if he was good to go, following the morning skate at SAP Center.
Todd McLellan was less sure.
“I believe he will be [in]. … If there’s any risk at all of Jason being sore or injured again tonight, he won’t play. If there is no risk, he will.”
Matt Irwin looks to be the odd-man out on the blue line.
At forward, Marty Havlat will likely play in a top six role, although it’s uncertain just how the top two lines will be constructed. Against Dallas on Wednesday, the top line of Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau did not have a good night.
Matt Nieto suffered an apparent left foot injury blocking a shot late in the second period against the Stars, so John McCarthy has been recalled from Worcester and will play.
[RELATED: Nieto injured for Sharks]
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The Sharks have won two of their last three, but have just six goals in their last six games (2-4-0).
McLellan admitted his team’s mental focus might be waning with the approaching time off.
“I do think we’re looking ahead. There’s no hiding it. I think we’re looking ahead to the break,” said the coach.
“It’s a situation where through injuries we’ve had to work and ride a lot of horses more than we wanted to and I think those players are ready for the break. That doesn’t give them the green light to take any time off, and yet I think at times we have done that. ... We’d obviously like to end on a real positive note, especially here at home and against a team that’s really drilled us the last few times we’ve played them.”
[RELATED: In the Crease: Blue Jackets vs. Sharks]
Last season, the Blue Jackets won all three games in regulation against the Sharks by a combined score of 14-5.
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Antti Niemi, who allowed four goals on 23 shots and was pulled in Monday’s 5-2 loss to Philadelphia, gets the nod in goal. He’s 4-3-0 career vs. Columbus, with a 3.22 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.
It was unclear who would go for Columbus, which lost 2-1 in overtime in Los Angeles on Monday. Sergei Bobrovsky allowed both goals on 20 shots. The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner is 12-2-1 with a 2.03 GAA and .933 SP in his last 15 starts.