ANAHEIM — Sharks forward Matt Nieto was understandably excited about the opportunity to play in his first regular season NHL game in Southern California on Tuesday, as San Jose tries to win back-to-back games against the Anaheim Ducks.
Nieto, a Long Beach native, said he had about 15-20 people coming to Tuesday's game.
Nieto said he used to play for the Junior Ducks when he was "9 or 10 years old" and got the opportunity to skate at the Honda Center at intermission of some NHL games. Tuesday marks the second occasion Nieto skated at the arena since that time, after he played in a preseason game here on Sept. 28.
Nieto missed the chance to play in Los Angeles against the Kings on Oct. 30 because of a hand injury.
"I was really looking forward to playing here and it was unfortunate with the injury," Nieto said. "But I'm excited to play here. It's New Year's Eve."
After forward Tommy Wingels was injured early in the first period of Sunday's 3-1 win by the Sharks over the Ducks, Nieto played a season-high 19 minutes and 29 seconds. San Jose tied a franchise record with 30 blocked shots in that game.
"They're a big group of guys and we have to use our speed and get in on the forecheck and make their defense turn around," Nieto said of the Ducks. "The defense can skate well and we have to make them work and get shots on net."