Cross Checks: Jason Demers
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Both the Kings and Sharks were mulling lineup decisions Tuesday morning after the pregame skates.
For Los Angeles, coach Darryl Sutter would not confirm whether winger Kyle Clifford would return for Game 4 on Tuesday night.
“There hasn’t been any announcement that I’m aware of that he’s coming back,” Sutter said when asked about Clifford.
Clifford, who has been out since May 8 with an undisclosed injury, skated on a line with Colin Fraser and Brad Richardson in practice Monday and sounded afterward like he thought he was playing.
But this is the playoffs, and gamesmanship with lineups is a daily activity.
On defense, veteran Matt Greene -- who played in only five games in the regular season after missing two months recovering from back surgery -- hasn’t played in the postseason, although he did take warm-ups before Game 3.
Sutter was asked Tuesday morning what it would take for him to feel comfortable playing Greene, who was a key last spring in the Kings’ Cup run.
“We had him in warm-up the other night, and that’s the direction you go,” Sutter said. “Practice, contact, game-day skates, warm-up, that’s always what you try and do. You’re more inclined with veteran guys ... there’s young guys that you have to push; the difference between injured and hurt, that’s something you have to explain sometimes. But with the older guys, the veterans, guys that you trust, there’s a point where they make that decision because they know what it takes.”
For San Jose, the re-injured Martin Havlat and the suspended Raffi Torres leave the Sharks with few options for their lineup ahead of Game 4.
Expect Tim Kennedy as a fourth-line center or Jason Demers as a seventh defenseman/fourth-line winger. The latter seems more likely.
“Still an option for us,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We can put Demers in and play him both at forward and the back end, and rotate him around. That would allow us to maybe overplay or use someone else on the fourth line a little bit more, whether it’s Jumbo or Patty or whoever it might be. So it’s certainly an option.”
Demers said Tuesday morning that he was told by the coaching staff simply to be “ready” in case he gets the call. Demers did play some forward three years ago in the conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, so it’s not foreign to him.
But McLellan dismissed the notion that because the Sharks have had success with Brent Burns moving from defense to forward, perhaps they can get lucky with Demers as well.
“No, it’s two completely different cases,” McLellan said. “We can’t get into making this a habit. Burnsy has played there before, he’s played well there before. Jason has played up in some games when we’ve needed forwards, but Burnsy is a separate case, a special case.”
Sutter on Monday said he had some concern that his goaltender came into more contact with opposing players in Game 3 than did San Jose’s goalie.
That’s a veteran coach’s way of getting the attention of referees before Game 4, hoping officials will call goalie interference when applicable.
“He plays on top of the crease,” Sutter said Tuesday of Quick when asked about his concerns. “I’m not whining or bitching or anything, but it’s just that he plays on the top of the crease, and the last two series we play against goalies who play more in the blue paint. So, what is the rule?”
The Sharks absolutely want to continue to get into Jonathan Quick’s face as much as possible.
“Within the rules, you want to get into his way,” Sharks winger T.J. Galiardi said. “I think with him, he wants to come out to the ringette line. If he comes out that far, I wish he was fair game. That would be great if that’s how it worked because he’s out all the time. He’s doing just as much as we are, little jabs here and there. He gave his blocker to the face of Burnsy. ... But we’re going to get in there. You can’t let him be comfortable."
Sutter on Sunday essentially called out his top line, saying the Kings needed more production from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams.
“We know that,” Kopitar said Tuesday morning. “We take pride in our production and our game and it’s not to a level where we need to be. We’re going to have to crank it up.”
Stock upJustin Williams, Los Angeles Kings
It seems like it’s taken a long time for Justin Williams to get his footing on the West Coast. Injuries have certainly played a key role in Williams’ stop-and-start experience since arriving from Carolina during the 2008-09 season. After being a big part of the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup run in 2006, Williams hasn’t managed to play more than 49 games in each of the past three campaigns and dressed for just three playoff games this past spring. But he has been on a tear this season, recording points in six straight games, including the only goal in the Kings’ 1-0 victory over red-hot Tampa Bay on Thursday night. It was the Kings’ fourth straight win, and Williams’ six goals and 12 points leads Los Angeles in both departments.Raffi Torres, Vancouver Canucks
Torres has had a difficult time finding a groove since he helped the Edmonton Oilers to an unexpected Stanley Cup finals berth in 2006. There were a couple of miserable seasons marred by injury in Edmonton before stops in Columbus and Buffalo, where Torres was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. But this season, Torres seems to have rediscovered his mojo in Vancouver, where he has seven points in his past five games. He scored his seventh of the season (a power-play goal) in the Canucks’ 3-1 victory over the Avalanche on Thursday night.
Stock downJames Wisniewski, New York Islanders
The Isles have lost six straight games in regulation, so this isn’t just about the Islanders defenseman who gained notoriety for his obscene gesture toward New York Rangers forward Sean Avery that netted him a two-game suspension. But after recording points in his first seven games this season, a key contribution given the absence of the injured Mark Streit, Wisniewski has become dormant and has gone without a point in four straight games. He is also minus-8 over that span.Jason Demers, San Jose Sharks
One of the players expected to step forward after the retirement of veteran Rob Blake was talented young defenseman Jason Demers. But the Sharks have received little production from their back end -- Dan Boyle and Niclas Wallin are the only defensemen to have bulged the twine through 11 games -- and Demers has, at least offensively, been a big disappointment. The 22-year-old has two assists and has just one assist in his past nine games while averaging more than 18 minutes a night in ice time. He was minus-2 in Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues, as the Sharks have lost two in a row and are a pedestrian 5-5-1 on the season.