Programming note: Oilers-Sharks coverage starts Thursday at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live
SAN JOSE – Matt Nieto has suffered a setback in his return from an ankle injury.
Nieto had been practicing with the team in the days following the original injury and wasn't expected to miss much time, but on Monday only took a few laps on the ice in a track suit and did not take part in practice.
The forward has missed the last five games since taking a hit from Boston’s Kevan Miller late in a game on Dec. 4, and will be out for Thursday’s Sharks home game with Edmonton, also.
“I guess you could call it a setback a little bit,” Todd McLellan said. “I don’t think he ever got over the hump, so he’s stuck right there right now.”
“He won’t play Thursday, I know that. We’ll see where he is for Saturday (vs. St. Louis) and Monday (at Anaheim). It could take him through the Christmas break. We want him back but we’ve got to do it right.”
The Sharks will have four days off after playing the Ducks on Dec. 22, and begin their post-Christmas break schedule in Los Angeles on Dec. 27.
The timing is unfortunate for the 21-year-old, who had points in three of his last five games before the injury, including a pair of goals after going 22 straight games without one.
McLellan said: “He was playing so well. He played well through his scoring slump, then he started to get rewarded, and then…
“But, he’ll be fine. He’s a mentally strong kid. He’ll he fine.”
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The strong play of the Sharks’ third line of James Sheppard, Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson during the team’s three-game winning streak likely lessens the blow of losing Nieto for perhaps another 12 days, at least.
McLellan suggested that the AHL Worcester Sharks should be paying attention, after Karlsson, Chris Tierney and Matt Tennyson were all inserted into the lineup right away after getting called up.
“That creates internal competition. Not only here, but if you’re in Worcester, you’ve got to be sitting there going, OK, they’re going through their rash of injuries, they’re calling people up, and they’re playing them. You should be performing there at the highest level possible right now, collectively and especially individually.”
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McLellan was also asked about defenseman Mirco Mueller, and the possibility of the 19-year-old being loaned to the Swiss team for the upcoming World Junior tournament.
“Every organization has to talk about their underage players. That’s where we’re at right now. We have to talk about it,” McLellan said. “It’s an option, but we sure like what he’s done here.”
The Sharks are currently carrying eight healthy defensemen. Mueller, who has three points (1g, 2a) and a -2 rating in 24 games this season, has been a healthy scratch in five of the last eight games.