BOSTON -- A year ago, Matt Nieto was playing left wing for Boston University. Tuesday, he was back on campus as a rookie who has been skating a regular third-line shift with the Sharks.

San Jose uses Agganis Arena, the BU home rink, for its practices when here to face the Boston Bruins. San Jose uses the visitors quarters here, but after his 45-minute skate, Nieto headed to the home bench where some of his college teammates and coaches were waiting.

"It's crazy," he said. "Being at Agganis Arena -- just playing here last year and being here now, it's really surreal."

Nieto has the distinction of being the first California native drafted by the Sharks. He grew up in Long Beach but left home at 14 to see how far his hockey skills could take him.

The first stop was Salisbury Prep in Connecticut, and the New England winter didn't change his goal of playing college hockey in Boston. After two years with the U.S. national development program in Ann Arbor, Mich., he had the opportunity to choose between BU and rival Boston College.

Last season was his third at BU, and he led the team with 18 goals. At that point, the decision was made to turn pro, and he played in Worcester for 11 games.

This year, the knee injury that sidelined Raffi Torres opened up a spot on a line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels. Nieto was given a shot at it, and he has kept the job since training camp. So far, he has chipped in two goals and three assists in nine games.

Skating speed and a hard shot were considered his strengths, but size was an issue. Listed at a generous 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Nieto knew he had to work on his strength and spent the summer at BU doing just that.

Did he plan to spend his first night back in Boston with his old teammates or his new ones?

"I'll probably hang out with my college buddies tonight," Nieto said. "I'll have the whole year to hang out with my Shark buddies."

Nieto wasn't the only former BU Terrier practicing with San Jose. John McCarthy was captain of the 2009 team that won the NCAA championship. This wasn't his first time at Agganis as a Shark, however, as he was with the team when it came to Boston two years ago.

  • Torres gave his knee its first real test Tuesday since it was surgically repaired on Sept. 26, skating on his own and getting a sense of how much mobility he had at this point.

    "You know what? It feels great," he said. "I was out there and did some crossovers and went hard a couple times. Right now it doesn't even feel like I had surgery. Just a little bit of soreness in the knee."

    But, no, that doesn't mean he'll return to action before the three-to-five months it takes for the knee to heal properly.

    "You can't really do that," Torres said. "But everything feels good and everything's on track if not ahead of schedule."

  • Newly acquired right wing Mike Brown was en route from Montreal but did not arrive in time to practice with his new team. That should happen Wednesday.

    Monday, the Sharks sent a fourth-round 2014 draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers for the 28-year-old tough guy who general manager Doug Wilson says brings the speed and style of play that the Sharks are looking for with both Torres and Adam Burish sidelined.

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

    Thursday's game
    Sharks (8-0-1) at Boston (5-2-0), 4 p.m. CSNCA