Sharks demote two top youngsters to AHL

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.