SAN JOSE -- Forward Matt Nieto's hand injury may open the door, however slightly, for Marty Havlat to make his season debut Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Kings.
Havlat, who had pelvic surgery in June and hasn't played since Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against Kings on May 18, took Nieto's spot on Joe Pavelski's line in Tuesday's practice.
Nieto was in the Los Angeles area Tuesday, nursing the injury he suffered Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens and visiting family. He did not play Sunday at Ottawa, with newly acquired Mike Brown taking his spot in the lineup.
Sharks associate coach Larry Robinson, speaking on behalf of Todd McLellan, who was also in Los Angeles on a personal matter, did not rule out Havlat playing on Wednesday, saying he and defenseman Dan Boyle will be game-time decisions.
Both Havlat and Boyle, "are kind of in the same boat," Robinson said. "We can put them in where the opportunity is best for them, too. I don't know if you want to play that first game against one of the tougher teams in the league as far as physicality goes. L.A. comes at you and a lot of their games are won and lost along the walls.
"It might not be an ideal situation for someone that's coming off a concussion or someone that's coming off a groin operation."
Havlat did not want to specifically discuss the injury but said, "It was great to be on a line today, nice to have a practice like that. It's been a good week. Last week too, being around the boys on the road. It's much more fun like that than being alone on the ice.
"I've been feeling pretty good. The next step is to be in a game."
Robinson said it would benefit Havlat to participate in more contact practices.
"That's where you get a good feel for how a guy's going to do," he said. "But when you're on the road for seven days, and traveling and everything else, you're not really getting quality practice time. I'm sure most of the decisions we make are going to be game time decisions."
Antti Niemi missed Tuesday's practice. Robinson said Niemi had a doctor's appointment and should be fine to play Wednesday,
Brent Burns, who has not played since Oct. 18 against Calgary with a mouth injury, also did not practice and appears doubtful for Wednesday's game. Robinson said Burns did some light skating before practice and was feeling better.