Sharks head south for first battle with Kings
Marty Havlat skated in Matt Nieto’s regular spot on a line with Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl during Tuesday's practice. (AP IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – Dan Boyle is getting closer to returning to the lineup, but it might not be against the Kings on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
During practice on Tuesday at Sharks Ice, Boyle didn’t take shifts with a regular partner, suggesting he could miss his seventh straight game. The Sharks don’t play again until Saturday at home against the Coyotes, which would be two-and-a-half weeks after Boyle was knocked out against St. Louis and left the ice on a stretcher on Oct. 15.
[RELATED: McLellan misses Sharks practice Tuesday]
“I’ve kind of thought about every possible scenario,” said Boyle, who still had to speak with the Sharks’ training staff after coming off of the ice. “At some point I’m going to have to go in, but I don’t know when that’s going to be.”
The good news is that Boyle said he hasn’t experienced any headaches or setbacks in his recovery. Tuesday was Boyle’s fifth day skating after he joined the team midway through its road trip last Thursday in Boston.
Associate coach Larry Robinson, speaking to the media in place of Todd McLellan, who missed practice for personal reasons, suggested the 10-1-1 Sharks are in a good position to not have to rush players back into the lineup.
Robinson said. “When the team’s going well, those are decisions that you can make when you think it’s going to be best for him, as well.”
That includes Marty Havlat, who could draw into the lineup depending on the status of Matt Nieto, who missed Sunday’s game in Ottawa with a hand injury. Nieto flew directly from Ottawa to Los Angeles to spend time with his family in Long Beach, and was not at Tuesday’s practice. Havlat skated in Nieto’s regular spot on a line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels.
When asked if he would play against the Kings, Havlat, who had offseason pelvic surgery and has not yet played this season, said: “You’ve got to talk to the coach.”
He declined to get into much detail about his injury status.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good. The next step is to be in a game.”
Robinson said: “He’s looked the same the last week, week-and-a-half. That’s another one, I’m sure he’s going to have to get in game shape. It’s unfortunate that we’ve never had any real contact practices for him. That’s where you get a good feel for how a guy’s going to do.”
Robinson termed both Boyle and Havlat as game-time decisions for Wednesday.
“I don’t know if you want to play your first game against one of the tougher teams in the league, in terms of how physicality goes,” Robinson said. “L.A. will come at you, and they play a lot of their games that are won and lost along the wall. It might not be an ideal situation for somebody that’s coming off of a concussion or groin operation.”
The Sharks have been able to maintain their nearly perfect record despite several key players missing from the lineup. That includes Brent Burns, who will miss his fifth straight game on Wednesday after a series of high hits.
San Jose scored just three goals in the first three games of its road trip, yet still won two of those. Sunday’s 5-2 win in Ottawa was aided by less than spectacular play by goaltender Craig Anderson, as Sharks captured an early lead and never trailed.
Captain Joe Thornton credits that success to a strong defensive identity and the team believing in its system.
“Everybody just knows what to do defensively. It definitely helps getting pucks out of our end and turning it into quick offense. It doesn’t matter who is really injured, guys have bought in to the program, and we’re playing at a high tempo right now,” Thornton said.
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Antti Niemi missed Tuesday’s practice for a doctor’s appointment, according to Robinson. Niemi is expected to start on Wednesday in Los Angeles, after his first night off on Sunday. Alex Stalock recorded the win against Ottawa in the first start of his NHL career.