LOS ANGELES -- Veteran forward Marty Havlat may have 224 goals in 700 NHL games, but his coach says he still has something to prove Wednesday night when he plays his first game since undergoing off-season pelvic surgery.
"Marty has proven throughout his career that he's a very capable, high-end NHL player, and that should continue here," coach Todd McLellan said after his team's morning preparation for its game against the Los Angeles Kings. "The way the game is being played or the way we would like to play it, that to me is the proving part."
The Sharks have evolved into an uptempo team that plays what coaches describe as north-south hockey. Havlat historically has had the skills to set up plays by slowing the speed of the game and making plays. He will play at right wing on a line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels.
"It's not about scoring goals and having the skill and all that type of stuff. Can he play his game in our structure, our environment and be effective?," McLellan said. "That is the only part that he has to prove to anybody — to himself, to his teammates or to the coaching staff. And we certainly believe he can."
The Sharks will be trying to reverse a trend that has seen them lose 10 of their last 11 appearances at Staples Center, including all four playoff games back in May.
The 32-year-old Havlat has been troubled on-and-off by injuries since coming to the Sharks in July 2011. He has played in 79 games over the past two seasons, scoring 30 goals and 35 assists.
Last year he was hurt in Game 1 of San Jose's playoff sweep of the Vancouver Canucks, tried to return to action in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings and lasted only six shifts.
"I haven't played a game in six months," Havlat said before quickly exiting the locker room. It's been a long time. It feels good to be back on the ice with the guys. We'll see how it goes."
Havlat replaces injured rookie Matt Nieto. McLellan said Nieto is not yet 100 percent and it would be unfair to him or his teammates to rush him into the lineup at this point.
In other injury updates, Dan Boyle made the trip to Los Angeles, but will not play tonight against the Kings. Brent Burns remained behind in San Jose, but has begun skating on his own.