Programming note: Coverage of Sharks-Wild begins at 2:30 on CSN California with Sharks Pregame Live.
ST. PAUL – According to Matt Nieto, part of the message from the Sharks’ coaches when he was reassigned to Worcester was that they wanted him to get his confidence back.
Perhaps a two-goal, three-assist performance in AHL Worcester two days ago has allowed the 20-year-old speedster to recapture it. Nieto, along with fellow rookie Freddie Hamilton, were recalled from the minors on Saturday and both will play against the Wild on Sunday afternoon.
The Sharks will be trying to end a two-game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 10-4.
“I hope they inject some energy into the lineup, and I know both of them play fast,” Todd McLellan said. “We’ve lacked in both of those areas the last two nights, and we’ll give both of them an opportunity to try and jump start the group.”
Nieto revealed he would play with Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels, in what could probably considered the team’s third line. Freddie Hamilton will skate with Tyler Kennedy and James Sheppard, meaning Joe Pavelski will likely be bumped up to the Logan Couture-Patrick Marleau line. That leaves Marty Havlat and John McCarthy as the potential scratches, although nothing has been confirmed by the team.
“I think for our line, and me in particular, it’s use my speed and get in on pucks,” said Nieto, who has two goals and four assists in 19 games. “I think if we get down in their end, all three of us have the ability to make plays. I think offense will come off of that.”
Hamilton, 21, had a scoreless four-game stint with the Sharks in late October. He had three points himself in Worcester's 8-2 win on Friday.
“Just play fast and play hard, and try to bring some energy,” Hamilton said of his role. “It’s a little more comfortable doing it before, already coming up from [Worcester]. I feel a little bit more comfortable today.”
The return of Nieto and Hamilton can serve another purpose than just on the ice, of course. It offers a reminder that ice time, and roster spots, will continue to have to be earned. The Sharks’ third line of Pavelski, Havlat and Kennedy has been particularly ineffective on the road trip.
“[Nieto and Hamilton] were part of some of our earlier success, they both play the game fast. It’s a lot to put on two guys to come in and reignite the team, and we can’t expect that completely from them,” McLellan said.
“It’s just about holding some people accountable, and creating some honesty.”
The Sharks held a team meeting shortly before 10 a.m. local time, for the 5 p.m. start (3 p.m. PST). They are 1-2 on their current four-game road trip.
"Sometimes they need to tell each other what they’re thinking and feeling, and we had a little bit of that this morning," McLellan said.
“The biggest challenge for our group is our group. It’s not so much Minnesota. With all due respect to them, it’s our group figuring out what they need to do, and how they want to do it.”
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Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks, in his first appearance since getting pulled after two periods in Pittsburgh on Thursday.