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The San Jose Sharks have one of the best records in the Western Conference, but want two of their best young players to refocus their energies - in the AHL.
After demoting rookie defenseman Matt Carle and right wing Steve Bernier, the Sharks start a three-game homestand on Thursday against the streaking Detroit Red Wings.
San Jose (26-14-0) bounced back from an 8-0 rout by Phoenix on Saturday with a 4-2 win over Dallas on Sunday. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each had a goal and assist as the Sharks scored all their goals in the first period.
"First of all, scoring the first goal for the first time in a long time was huge for us," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said after the win. "Last night we were down 3-0 after the first period. Tonight we get a three-goal lead with the same effort."
Carle, 22, and Bernier, 21, were healthy scratches against the Stars. On Tuesday, the Sharks sent the pair to their AHL affiliate in Worcester in a surprising demotion.
Carle, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA's top player last season, leads all Sharks blue liners with three goals and 18 assists in 39 games. He also is sixth in scoring among rookies.
"He was squeezing the stick," Wilson said of Carle. "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."
Bernier, in his second year, is the Sharks' fourth-leading scorer with 11 goals and 14 assists in 39 games. He had 27 points in 39 games as a rookie last season, playing on San Jose's second line alongside 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.
"They are two different cases. I have all the confidence in both guys and am sure they will turn their games around."
With 52 points, San Jose is 10 behind Western Conference and Pacific Division-leading Anaheim.
Detroit (25-9-5), which kicks off a season-high five-game road trip with this contest, begins play tied with Nashville atop the Central Division. Both teams have 55 points, but the Red Wings have one game in hand.
Detroit extended its winning streak to four games after rallying for a 2-1 win over the Ducks on Tuesday, when longtime captain and future Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman had his No. 19 jersey raised to the rafters.
Henrik Zetterberg's goal with 3:09 to play in the second period snapped a 1-all tie, and Dominik Hasek needed to make just seven of his 21 saves in the third period to preserve the win.
"It certainly helped the festivities that we were able to get out of here with a win," current Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We started off sluggish because we were sitting around for more than an hour, but then we played well."
The Red Wings have split the first two games of the season series, but both victories came at home. Detroit has lost five of its last six games in San Jose, scoring just five goals in those defeats.
"We are hot in our building, but you want to go on the road and win some games, also," Hasek said. "We've been stepping up the last month and we want to continue to do that on the road."
Chris Chelios was scratched with a shin injury, and will be not be in uniform for this contest. The longtime defenseman, who turns 45 on Jan. 24, will stay in Detroit after two employees at a sports bar he owns were stabbed to death Tuesday morning.
A 17-year-old former employee was charged with the murders on Wednesday.
Pavel Datsyuk also missed the game with a groin injury, but will travel with the team and is listed as day-to-day. Datsyuk has 31 points, and is tied with defenseman Mathieu Schneider for second on the team in scoring.
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