Sharks demote two top youngsters to AHL

Updated: January 2, 2007, 10:32 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks assigned right wing Steve Bernier and defenseman Matt Carle to their AHL affiliate in Worcester on Tuesday, a surprising demotion for two of their top young regulars.

Bernier and Carle hadn't missed a game this season until both were healthy scratches in San Jose's 4-2 win over Dallas on Sunday -- one day after an 8-0 loss at Phoenix, the Sharks' worst defeat in eight years. San Jose dropped from third overall to sixth in the NHL while losing five of seven games in late December.

Coach Ron Wilson said he wanted to send a message to both players after Bernier scored just one point in his past seven games and Carle was a minus-4 against the Coyotes.

But the Sharks decided a one-game message wasn't enough to turn around either player, so they demoted two key contributors to one of the AHL's winningest teams.

"They are two different cases," Wilson said Tuesday. "I have all the confidence in both guys and am sure they will turn their games around."

Bernier, a second-year pro, is the Sharks' fourth-leading scorer with 11 goals and 14 assists in 39 games this season. He scored 27 points in 39 games as a rookie last season, playing on San Jose's second line alongside captain Patrick Marleau.

"Bernie hadn't done the things that made him effective early in the season -- getting the puck out of our zone, winning every battle, competing and working every shift," Wilson said. "It happens to a lot of young players. They lose focus and get caught up in the attention."

Carle, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA's top player last season, is San Jose's top-scoring defenseman with three goals and 18 assists in 39 games. He is sixth in the NHL in points among rookies, and was mentioned as a Calder Trophy candidate.

But the Sharks felt his defensive play had slipped noticeably in recent weeks.

"He was squeezing the stick," Wilson said. "We openly talked about him being mentally tired. Maybe he hit the wall. … We anticipated this [could happen]. He's never played this volume of games, and we don't think sitting him out is the way to fix it. He has to get back to just playing and letting the game flow. He is thinking too much."

Bernier is likely to be replaced by wing Ryane Clowe, while defensemen Josh Gorges, Doug Murray and Rob Davison could get more responsibility in Carle's absence.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press