SAN JOSE – Matt Nieto will miss one more game, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is questionable for the Sharks’ regular season finale on Saturday against the Coyotes.
Both players were hurt on March 17 in Arizona and have missed the past 11 games, but both were on the ice on Friday for a rare full team practice at Sharks Ice.
Neither Vlasic nor coach Pete DeBoer ruled out the defenseman for the game, although with the Sharks locked in to the third seed in the Pacific Division, it may make sense to allow him another few days to heal.
Vlasic is dealing with a right knee injury, believed to be a sprained MCL.
“He looks good,” DeBoer said. “We’ll make some decisions on tomorrow’s lineup, but I know for a fact he’ll be ready for the playoffs, which is good news.”
“We’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning,” Vlasic said. “If I’m in, great, if I’m not, great.”
The 29-year-old all but guaranteed he’d be fine for the Sharks’ first playoff game next week.
“I would be shocked if I wasn’t in,” he said.
DeBoer didn’t seem too concerned about Vlasic having to shake off too much rust upon his return, whenever it might be.
“I think there’s always a little rust when you’re out, but I think some guys, their game is built better to deal with it. I think he’s one of those guys,” he said. “He plays such an intelligent game and his feet are so good, that there’s probably less of an issue with that.”
Nieto has been able to maintain his stamina by skating hard over the past few weeks. He is still wearing protection on his injured left hand, but he’s able to shoot the puck.
“I wanted to play tomorrow, but I went to the doctors the other day and they said it’s better I just wait until playoffs,” Nieto said. “Probably a smart move there. It will be ready by next week. It’s progressed every day.”
It’s difficult to determine which forward Nieto might push out of the Sharks’ lineup, if he gets in at all. If he does, though, his legs and his lungs should be fine.
“My legs feel great. I’ve been skating for the past few weeks, which hasn’t been fun, but it’s going to make the transition easier in the game,” he said.
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Expect Dainius Zubrus to return to the fourth line on Saturday with Chris Tierney and Tommy Wingels. Micheal Haley was the odd man out for line rushes in Friday’s practice.
Martin Jones will start in net against the Coyotes.