SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' defensive pairings for their practice Monday looked fairly familiar, with Dan Boyle teamed with Matt Irwin, Justin Braun with Brad Stuart and Marc-Edouard Vlasic skating with Jason Demers.

They could look different next week, for the start of the playoffs later this month or even in time for San Jose's home game against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. After 76 regular season games, having a variety of partners is something the Sharks defensemen have become accustomed to.

"Guys get injured, guys get sick. I feel like we've all kind of taken our turns playing with everybody this year," Boyle said. "I feel like it's overanalyzed. I don't think it's that hard to adjust to a certain partner."

San Jose Sharks’ Dan Boyle (22), Alex Stalock (32) and Justin Braun (61) react as Philadelphia Flyers’ take the lead 5-2 in the third period at
San Jose Sharks' Dan Boyle (22), Alex Stalock (32) and Justin Braun (61) react as Philadelphia Flyers' take the lead 5-2 in the third period at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) ( Josie Lepe )

The Sharks' defensive corps appears healthy for one of the few times since the end of the Olympic break. Scott Hannan missed Monday's practice as he tended to a family matter, but he should be available Tuesday, and Demers, who sat out Saturday's game in Colorado because of the flu, was again close to normal.

Having seven healthy defensemen gives coach Todd McLellan some options as they try to tailor their pairings to match up with a specific opponent. Against Edmonton on March 25, for instance, Hannan played and Irwin was a healthy scratch. Against Calgary the night before, Stuart returned from his upper body injury and Hannan was scratched.


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Associate coach Larry Robinson and assistant Jim Johnson, "have a huge impact on who we play with who and how we match up," McLellan said. "I couldn't tell you which six will start right now, because we feel we have seven who can play. ... When it rolls around, you have to have seven ready. And when you have seven, the pairs never stay consistent. It's as simple as that."

Having a healthy Demers certainly would give McLellan and his staff more flexibility than they had for last year's postseason, when Demers was hampered by an ankle injury and saw only limited time as a forward against the Los Angeles Kings in the second round. The only other option at defense for the Sharks at the time was Matt Tennyson, who still does not have any playoff experience.

"I think with all of the offense on our team, our d-corps is pretty solid to play with everybody," Demers said. "Everyone's pretty versatile. It's nice to know that everyone has confidence playing with each other. ... It's all about team defense. It's not about one guy. We're all together and we all push each other."

With Demers largely out for last year's playoffs, the pairings were relatively stable, as Vlasic paired with Braun, Stuart was with Hannan, and Boyle was with Irwin.

Such a scenario might again be ideal, especially if the Sharks are winning games. But if pairings are altered, San Jose's defensemen aren't worried.

"It would be nice to have that chemistry with a guy and you feel confident every shift out there with him," Braun said. "But you never know what's going to happen in the playoffs. You can't get too locked in."

  • The Sharks assigned Mirco Mueller to their American Hockey League affiliate in Worcester. Mueller, the organization's top prospect who was selected 18th overall in last year's draft, was assigned to the AHL after Everett was eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs by Seattle. With Everett this season, Mueller had five goals and 27 points in 60 games.

    Listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Mueller, 19, has drawn comparisons to Vlasic for his above-average skating and his ability to move the puck. With Hannan and Boyle on track to be unrestricted free agents in the summer, Mueller could have a shot to crack the Sharks' roster next season.

    "He's a world-class skater," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "His hockey sense -- he's very mature in how he plays the game. He fits with how the game is being played in this league right now. We have very high expectations for him."

    Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at twitter.com/CurtisPashelka.

    Tuesday's game

    Edmonton (26-40-9) at Sharks (47-20-9), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA