SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Jason Demers has been ruled out for Saturday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes, likely forcing the return of Brent Burns to the blue line.
"He's not going to play tonight," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Demers. "Not feeling good today."
Demers took a hard shoulder-to-head hit from Detroit Red Wings center Cory Emmerton in the first period Thursday night. Although Demers finished the game, that hit raises obvious questions about a potential concussion. McClellan was asked whether Demers is out because of the Emmerton hit.
"He's not going to play tonight," McLellan repeated. "He's not feeling good today."
Since moving Burns to forward and trading defenseman Douglas Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Sharks have had six defensemen on their roster. But Burns skated as a defenseman during the Sharks' morning skate, and Adam Burish, a healthy scratch the past two games for the first time this season, took Burns' spot on the top forward line.
Burns has scored in three straight games and has five goals and 10 points since moving to forward nine games ago.
"He spent the majority of his seven or eight years [in the NHL] back there," McLellan said. "I'm assuming it's probably easier for him to go back than it is to go up. That doesn't mean we'll use him back there all night. He'll allow us to have six there tonight, and we may even play him up front for a while."
McLellan said the Sharks have a defenseman en route to San Jose from their American Hockey League team in Worcester, Mass., but he's not expected to arrive in time to play against Phoenix. McLellan declined to name the defenseman.
If the Sharks simply plug Burish into Burns' spot on the top line, they would be able to keep the rest of their lines intact. McLellan said that potentially could happen.
"Based on the way he felt this morning, Demers, it was a last-minute shuffle," McLellan said. "We'll spend some time talking about our lines and how we want to play them. You can anticipate we go that way. It might not."
San Jose will face a Phoenix team that scored six goals in the first period of a 7-4 road victory Thursday against the Nashville Predators and snapped its seven-game losing streak.
The Coyotes juggled three of their four lines in that game, and it's likely that the new-look top line of Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata will remain together. Vrbata scored twice and Hanzal once against Nashville.
The Coyotes scored a total of eight goals during their seven-game skid, and Vrbata said he hopes their win against the Predators marks the start of a turnaround.
"We had a tough time scoring lately," Vrbata said. "Hopefully this game will give us some confidence and guys will start feeling good about themselves and believe we can actually score goals. We will need that because there's not too many games left. With the losing streak, we kind of dug our hole a little too deep. We will need to be good now."
Here's how the lineups could look Saturday night when the Sharks face the Coyotes:
Martin Havlat - Joe Thornton - Adam Burish
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Ryane Clowe - Joe Pavelski - TJ Galiardi
Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - James Sheppard
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Matt Irwin - Justin Braun
Brad Stuart - Brent Burns
Injured: Thomas Greiss (neck), Tim Kennedy (upper body), Jason Demers (undisclosed)
Scratched: Michal Handzus
Notes: Niemi, who has back-to-back shutouts, was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to make his 12th straight start.
Shane Doan - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Steve Sullivan - Matthew Lombardi - Mikkel Boedker
Rob Klinkhammer - Boyd Gordon - David Moss
Kyle Chipchura - Antoine Vermette - Raffi Torres
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone
Keith Yandle - David Schlemko
Rostislav Klesla - Derek Morris
Injured: Zbynek Michalek (upper body), Lauri Korpikoski (lower body), Mike Smith (upper body)
Scratched: Paul Bissonnette
Notes: LaBarbera was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start. He started against the Sharks on Jan. 24 at HP, allowing four goals on 34 shots in a 5-3 loss. Goaltender Mike Smith (upper body) did not make the trip to San Jose and remains on injured reserve. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body) skated Saturday morning and, according to Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, is close to returning but will not be in the lineup tonight and remains on injured reserve. Forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) did not skate and is still day-to-day.