PITTSBURGH – Matt Nieto’s view of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was the same as just about every other Sharks fan back in San Jose. He watched on television from the visiting dressing room at Consol Energy Center, as his teammates went on to a 3-2 loss in the series opener.
His view could be much different for Game 2. Nieto is available to play against the Penguins, recovering from an upper body injury suffered in Game 6 of the second round against Nashville on May 9.
Pete DeBoer would not confirm that Nieto would be in on Wednesday, saying only that he would “sleep on it, and make decisions in the morning.”
“Any time you get a guy like Nieto available, which he just recently got available to us, he’s always a consideration,” said the coach.
Considering Nieto is one of the team’s fastest players, though – and the Sharks were overwhelmed at times by the Penguins’ speed in Game 1 – it’s a strong bet he’ll draw into the lineup.
The 23-year-old was asked if his speed could be an asset against Pittsburgh.
“I definitely think I could help the team,” said Nieto, who has one goal and two assists in 11 playoff games. “When I have my legs going, I’m getting in on the forecheck and backchecking, and playing good two-way hockey. If my name is called, I’ll be ready to do all those things.”
At the time he got hurt, Nieto was skating on the Sharks’ third line left wing with Chris Tierney and Joel Ward. He could potentially return to that spot in place of Melker Karlsson, who has three goals (one in an empty net) and one assist in 19 games in the playoffs.
In Game 1, that trio was the Sharks’ least effective line. Tierney, Karlsson and Ward were the three worst Sharks forwards when measured by shot attempt differential.
DeBoer described the line, “like the rest of our team. Off a little.”
Ward was a bit more forthcoming.
“Not the greatest. I think we can definitely be better, for sure,” he said.
“I thought we’ve got to be a lot [harder] in the offensive zone when we get chances, and pinning it in. We always try to find a way to be better. We definitely as a group have got to find a way to create a little bit more.”