Programming note: Sharks-Coyotes coverage gets underway today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE -- The Sharks will get a key piece back in their lineup on Saturday night, as they try and maintain a perfect home record against a surging Phoenix Coyotes club at SAP Center.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan confirmed that defenseman Dan Boyle will return from a seven-game absence after he was knocked out on the ice during a game in St. Louis on Oct. 15. San Jose has gone 4-1-2 with Boyle out.
“As well as the guys have played, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed watching it all that much,” Boyle said after the morning skate. “I want to get back out there where I want to be.”
Boyle looks to be paired with Brad Stuart, meaning a healthy Matt Irwin will sit.
Although he has just one goal and one assist in his first six games, Boyle’s absence has been most notable on the power play. San Jose is just 2-for-15 in its last five games with a man advantage.
“He’s maybe one of the top two or three quarterback defensemen in the league,” Todd McLellan said. “It’s his poise, his experience, his knowledge and reads of what’s going on. The power play has missed him.”
Logan Couture said: “Boyler is such a smart player. He sees the ice so well. [Jason Demers] stepped in and did great job when he was with us, but you can’t really replace Dan Boyle. He’s one of the best in the world at doing what he does.”
The Sharks will also welcome Matt Nieto back into the lineup on Saturday, after the 20-year-old missed the last three games with a hand injury. Nieto said that he injured the hand blocking a Dennis Seidenberg shot against Boston on Oct. 24, had it numbed for a game against the Canadiens on Oct. 26 in which he had a game-high six shots, but was unable to continue the next night in Ottawa.
Nieto has two goals and three assists in 11 games, and will be back in his place on the third line alongside Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels.
The Sharks, 5-0-0 on home ice, kept their lines the same as in practice on Friday, with Tyler Kennedy on the Joe Thornton-Tomas Hertl line and Marty Havlat with Couture and Patrick Marleau.
The Havlat-Couture-Marleau line had some success late in the season before Havlat was injured in the first game of the playoffs. The 32-year-old winger, who will be playing in his second game, hopes they can rekindle that chemistry.
“The end of the season was pretty good. It will be great to be there tonight,” Havlat said. “They are both great players, so it is always fun to play with them.”
Phoenix, winners of five of its last six, could tie the Sharks in points with a regulation win. The Coyotes will look to avenge a substantial 4-1 defeat on Oct. 5 at SAP Center in the second game of the season.
The Coyotes enter the game third in the league in goals-per game with 3.36. The Sharks lead the league with 3.85.
McLellan said: “They have the same system and same style. Their offensive players are clicking right now and they seem to be scoring a little bit more. The power play is maybe more dangerous than it has been in the past, but they very much look like the Phoenix Coyotes to me.”
“We understand that Pacific teams are going to win a lot of games and are going to get a lot of points. … We’ve got to beat teams in our division, and we’ve got to get points every night,” Couture said.