SAN JOSE – An injured Matt Nieto missed Sharks practice on Wednesday, leaving him questionable to play in Thursday’s decisive Game 7 against the Predators.
Nieto left Game 6 on Monday after crashing hard into the goal post in the first period. In 11 games in the playoffs, Nieto has one goal and two assists. He recorded the primary helper on Chris Tierney’s goal in Game 6, increasing the Sharks’ lead to 2-0 at the time.
"Didn't skate today. We'll look at him again tomorrow,” coach Pete DeBoer said.
After the Game 6 loss, DeBoer pointed to the loss of Nieto as having an adverse effect on his team.
“We basically had to go down to three lines, which hurt our depth a little bit,” he said. “It hurt our push the rest of the game.”
Tommy Wingels, a healthy scratch in the past two games, will likely draw back in for San Jose if Nieto is unable to go.
“If I’m back in tomorrow, use my speed, create some scoring chances, be physical, get in on the forecheck – all the little things that hopefully make the team successful and win the game,” Wingels said.
The Sharks’ top two lines remained the same for Wednesday’s full practice, with Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl comprising the top line, and Patrick Marleau remaining on the second line left wing with center Logan Couture and right wing Joonas Donskoi. The third line consisted of Tierney between Melker Karlsson and Joel Ward.
Wingels, who would likely play with Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling on the fourth line, was removed from the lineup for Zubrus before Game 4. He has one goal, an empty netter, in nine playoff games.
Zubrus injected some life into the fourth line in Game 5 in his playoff debut, and DeBoer is looking for the same from Wingels.
"I don't expect anything but energy. I don't think we have to manage any type of drop-off,” DeBoer said. “We saw Zubie sit for a month and come in and give us a big game and energy and effectiveness, so I expect the same thing out of Tommy if he jumps back in."
Wingels watched the Sharks’ strong Game 5 performance, a 5-1 home win, that was followed by a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6 in which Nashville was the much more dominant team from late in the first period on.
“I think everyone sees the difference between Game 5 and Game 6,” Wingels said. “In Game 5, we were the aggressor. We were on the right side of pucks, we were winning battles. We were driving the play. That’s pretty much the complete opposite of that in Game 6.
“The formula is there for us. We know what kind of game we need to play to win. If we feel like we play that game, the result will be the one we want.”