McLellan: Pelech 'knows his role' as physical presence
Matt Irwin is looking for a strong showing after making costly mistakes in each of his last two games. (USATSI)
SAN JOSE -- A healthy scratch for the last six games, Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin will return to the lineup against the Kings on Wednesday.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve played. I’m been champing at the bit to get out there, obviously, to help the team,” said the 25-year-old. “Now, I’ve got my opportunity, I’ve got to seize the moment, keep it simple and play my game.”
Todd McLellan said: “It’s just time to get him playing again. He shoots the puck a lot, he gives the power play a bit of a pop, and he’ll get that opportunity.”
Irwin will be paired with Dan Boyle, while Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic will reunite. The third pair will be Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan. That leaves Jason Demers as the odd man out.
Irwin has made two notable mistakes in each of his last two games, resulting in opposition goals. On Oct. 30, his turnover to Justin Williams led to a score by Drew Doughty in Los Angeles. Irwin sat for the next three games, returned in Winnipeg on Nov. 10, and had a shot blocked leading to an odd-man rush and a Michael Frolik marker.
He was asked on Wednesday what he needs to do better.
“The big thing is just making the first play,” he said. “The first play is usually the best play. When I get in trouble, I hold on to the puck a little too much and maybe try to force things. … I’ve got to shoot the puck, move the puck, and I’ll be fine.”
Boyle has no worries that Irwin, who signed a two-year contract extension last season, will regain his form.
“He’ll be fine. He’s a very important piece to this team,” Boyle said.
“I’ve been through it, a lot of guys go through it. That’s where you have to rely on yourself a lot, and trust in your abilities. Try not to get too clogged up in what’s going on up here, and trust in yourself. He’ll be fine. He’s too good a player.”
The Sharks are 5-1-0 since Irwin came out of the lineup following the 5-4 shootout loss in Winnipeg.
“When you’re out and the team is winning, that’s just the reality of it,” Boyle said. “What is hard is when the team is not winning and you’re not in. That’s a little tougher to swallow. Everybody in the lineup deserves to be in, including Matty. That’s just the sign of a good hockey team, and you need that going forward.”
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Based on the morning line rushes, Andrew Desjardins is likely to return after he was a healthy scratch against New Jersey on Saturday. The Sharks’ fourth line looks to be Desjardins, James Sheppard and Mike Brown.
John McCarthy and the recently recalled Matt Pelech will sit.
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Antti Niemi will face Ben Scrivens in net, as Kings starter Jonathan Quick battles a groin injury.
Scrivens is 6-1-3 with a 1.44 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
McLellan said: “When you lose [Quick] and you go to a guy like Scrivens, who is also a very talented, talented goaltender, It’s a true reflection on how well they play defense and how good they are in their own zone, how few shots they give up, and scoring chances. We’ll talk about that a little bit before the game tonight. It doesn’t matter who plays goal for them.”