SAN JOSE -- Although he made a positive impact for the Sharks in their final 11 regular-season games, forward Raffi Torres may become one of San Jose's greatest assets when its first-round series with the Vancouver Canucks begins Wednesday at Rogers Arena.
Torres is eager to put last season's NHL playoffs behind him, when he was handed a then-25 game suspension for a hit to the head on the Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa that was later reduced to 21 games.
Still, Torres provides a physical dimension that seems perfect for a series that should be one of the nastier confrontations in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. That sandpaper-like style is one of the reasons the Sharks acquired him from the Phoenix Coyotes earlier this month.
"I think he's fit in well," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Based on my dealings with him and meeting with him on different occasions, he seems to be comfortable and he hasn't shown any effects on the ice of being tentative or anything like that."
Torres has six points as a Shark. Perhaps just as important, he's remained physical while taking just two minor penalties. He also has just one five-minute major, when he fought Chicago's Jamal Mayers on Feb. 7 in a bout that was all but predetermined after the hit on Hossa.
"I think it is a monumental day. It's very encouraging for the LGBT community and more importantly sports in general," Wingels said. "This is a day that's been coming for a while. For an athlete to feel comfortable in his sport says a lot. We'll see where it goes from here."
The You Can Play Project was established in 2012 as a way to increase tolerance and support of LGBT athletes at all levels of sports. The NHL and NHLPA formally announced a partnership with You Can Play earlier this month and the league hopes to increase education for teams, players, fans and media.
The project was established by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, whose brother, Brendan, then a teammate of Wingels', came out in 2009 when he was playing at Miami University in Ohio. Brendan was killed in a car crash in 2010. Wingels spoke at Brendan's funeral.
"The support was there," for Collins, Wingels said. "That's ultimately what matters, the people around you and the media. Primarily those that are real close to you, those in the locker room and your teammates. It's an encouraging day for the sports world."
Tennyson is a closer match to Demers' puck-moving style, but Hannan has 82 games of NHL playoff experience. Prevailing wisdom says that experience would count more, but McLellan said that was not necessarily the determining factor.
McLellan also didn't set a target date for Demers' return other than to say it potentially could be later in the Vancouver series.
Staff writer David Pollak contributed to this notebook.