Justin Braun sent down to Worcester; Niittymaki likely to practice tomorrow

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Darroll Powe #14 of the Minnesota Wild battles for the puck with Justin Braun #61 of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on November 10, 2011 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 3-1. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

According to the AHL's transactions page Justin Braun was sent down to Worcester today, joining the Sharks AHL affiliate for the first time since October 21st.

Although Braun had only posted one assist in ten games played with the big club, his play on the blueline had been the lone bright spot on an otherwise inconsistent bottom pairing. As we covered earlier this month, Braun had been driving the play in the right direction and generating scoring opportunities for his team every time he hit the ice.

A weak game against Los Angeles, along with a resurgence in play from Jason Demers as of late, could have played a role in Braun's demotion. Furthermore, recent news from David Pollak of Working The Corners indicates that goaltender Antero Niittymaki may be getting ready to practice with the team soon.

Here's DP with more:

Antero Niittymaki’s rehab progress has reached the point that goalie coach/assistant GM Wayne Thomas said this morning that Niittymaki probably will practice with his teammates tomorrow for the first time since undergoing hip surgery in September.

That was supposed to sideline Niittymaki for 12 weeks and Thomas said the netminder may even be a little bit ahead of schedule.

When he returns, the Sharks will have to figure out what to do with a pair of capable back-ups. And with more than a couple teams already dipping deep into their farm system for back-ups, I wouldn’t rule out a trade involving either Niittymaki or Thomas Greiss.

>> Working The Corners

As DP says, a trade involving either Thomas Greiss or Antero Niittymaki is a possibility considering the Sharks current situation and the need for quality backup goaltenders around the League. Matt covered this scenario earlier in the year, and we both feel that Niittymaki would be the odd man out in this situation considering Greiss' play this season as well as the fact he is signed to an affordable two year deal and is only 25 years old.

"Braun was sent down because he doesn't require waivers, but I don't expect the team to carry three goalies for long once Nittymaki is activated. It's a waste of cap space and prevents them from roster and salary flexibility," award-winning analyst and part-time male model Matt Taylor said via text. "Also, I think Shane's character on the Walking Dead is really straining the series, and I hope the writers don't back down on one of the best moments of the comic to continue his arc.*"

*For the record, I have to disagree with Matt when he says Shane's character is straining the series. The horror of the walkers has begun to pale in comparison to the darkness Shane has brought to the series; he's a complete wildcard, and therefore an extremely effective character that leaves you fearing just what he is capable of.

Before a potential trade may occur however, the Sharks will still have time to explore their options. Once Niittymaki is activated from the long-term injured reserve, San Jose would have the option of assigning Niittymaki to Worcester for a conditioning assignment. According to the CBA, conditioning assignments can last up to 14 days. At the end of that period, Nittymaki must either return to the NHL roster or be placed on waivers to remain with Worcester.

Frazer McLaren is a recent example of a player who went through a conditioning assignment in Worcester, and when James Sheppard returns, it is likely he will go through the same process as well.

The fact that the Sharks have carried eight defenseman this season and may end up carrying three goaltenders at some point is a scenario one would have found hard to envision after two years of the Worcester Shuttle. It may not be as geeky as TV series based off a comic book, but it's something that always makes me giggle whenever I think about it.

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