SAN JOSE -- One day after being recalled from Worcester of the American Hockey League, Bracken Kearns will center the third line Sunday night at SAP Center for the San Jose Sharks when they face an Anaheim Ducks team that has won a franchise record 10 straight games.
Kearns has played one game for San Jose this season, Oct. 17 against the Dallas Stars, but he had 18 points and 13 assists (each team highs) at Worcester. Last season, Kearns played in one regular-season game for San Jose but was in the lineup for all seven against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference semifinals.
"He was a very important player in that series, considering the injuries we were going through and suspensions," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "He was very capable of playing against a very good hockey club, and he's thrown into the fire again tonight that way against maybe the best team in the League right now."
Kearns, 32, made his NHL postseason debut last season and said he'll draw on that experience against Anaheim.
"Todd, I felt, took a chance on me in the playoffs last year," Kearns said. "I gained a lot of confidence from that series. Obviously it would have been nice to beat L.A., but I definitely look back on that and try to use that to come into games like this and play well.
"I don't think it will be easy, but I definitely plan on making a difference. You don't want to come in here and play shy at all. You want to come in and do well, make a difference and try to help this team win."
The Sharks will play their fourth game since losing wing Tomas Hertl to a knee injury, and McLellan is still searching for the right line combinations.
Kearns will center James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels, who had been skating on the second line. Speedy rookie Matt Nieto will skate on the second line against Anaheim with center Logan Couture and left wing Patrick Marleau.
"They're players that can make plays, so I'm real excited," Nieto said. "It's a great opportunity for me. I think I'll fit in well. I think we'll be able to make plays out there, get a lot of chances and hopefully score a few goals."
McLellan wants to get some offensive production from his bottom two lines, which have been largely quiet since Joe Pavelski moved from third-line center to top-line wing. Kearns will try to provide a spark.
"He's a competitive player with a lot of experience," McLellan said. "We feel he can play through the middle, center ice, and when he's playing, well, he's winning a lot of loose puck battles. Can he create some offense? We'll find that out as well."
Sharks forward Martin Havlat (lower body) will miss his third straight game. The Sharks are also missing forwards Raffi Torres (knee surgery) and Adam Burish (back surgery).
Torres hasn't pinpointed a date for his return, but he said Sunday he expects to return to action this season and is encouraged by his progress. He has been skating for about three weeks but has yet to come close to going all-out.
"We usually go about two or three days in a row then take a break," Torres said. "Just going on how you feel ... I feel great. I'm in great shape. I'm light right now. "
Here are the projected lineups:
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
James Sheppard - Bracken Kearns - Tommy Wingels
Tyler Kennedy - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart - Jason Demers
Scratched: Scott Hannan, John McCarthy
Injured: Martin Havlat (lower body) Tomas Hertl (right knee), Raffi Torres (knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery)
Dustin Penner - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Jakob Silfverberg - Mathieu Perreault - Kyle Palmieri
Daniel Winnik - Saku Koivu - Andrew Cogliano
Patrick Maroon - Nick Bonino - Tim Jackman
Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy
Mark Fistric - Francois Beauchemin
Bryan Allen - Hampus Lindholm
Scratched: Teemu Selanne, Sami Vatanen, Matt Beleskey
Injured: Viktor Fasth (lower body), Sheldon Souray (wrist), Luca Sbisa (hand)
NOTES: The Ducks, coming off a 3-2 overtime victory against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night, had an optional skate Sunday morning. Goaltender Jonas Hiller got the win against Phoenix. Backup Frederik Andersen, the first goalie off the ice Sunday morning, is expected to start against San Jose, although Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau did not confirm that move. Veteran forward Teemu Selanne, who hasn't played in the second of back-to-back games this season, did not make the trip to San Jose.