Kevin and Brodie: Hertl raising expectations; Stuart returns
Brad Stuart tallied six assists in 48 games for the Sharks last year. (USATSI)
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SAN JOSE -- Brad Stuart will make his season debut on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers, the defenseman confirmed after the morning skate.
Stuart will be paired with Jason Demers, while Scott Hannan will be a healthy scratch as the Sharks try to improve to 3-0-0.
“It feels good,” Stuart said. “Obviously, it's going to be a bit of an adjustment for me going from just practicing to having to play in a game. [I’ll] try to use my experience, and try to get up to speed as quick as I can."
The hard-hitting 33-year-old was unable to play in any preseason games, and missed the first two weeks of training camp with a lower body injury.
"I feel as good as I can without having played a game. That's the next step. I'm excited just to be able to get out there,” Stuart said.
Todd McLellan said: “Our players like to play when he’s involved in the game. It’s as simple as that. He’s physical, a very good penalty killer, understands how we want to play and has the ability to play against other team's top players. You get a guy like that back in your lineup, when he gets to the top of his game, it’s a very welcome addition.”
Stuart and Hannan were paired together in last year’s postseason, to form and effective third pair. Demers, who has struggled to remain healthy and in the lineup the last two years, has impressed McLellan through the first two games.
Demers has averaged 17 minutes and 41 seconds of ice time, including playing one of the points on the second power play unit.
“He looks a little more confident, he looks sure of himself, and I think that comes from health, the ability to start with a team rather than coming in late and trying to fit in,” McLellan said.
The coach was asked how Demers over Hannan changes the dynamic of what can probably be labeled as the Sharks’ third defense pair.
“I don’t want to say [Demers is a] riskier player, because that makes him sound like there’s danger in playing him, but he’s a little more on his toes. He’s willing to go a little bit more, where Scotty stays home and defends a little bit more. That’s really only the two differences between them. Scotty’s a little more physical, as well.
“There’s different ingredients for different nights, and tonight Stuey will get to draw in.”
Last season, Stuart led the Sharks in shorthanded time on ice while playing in all 48 games. He had no goals, six assists and 25 penalty minutes.