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Stanley Cup Final

Sharks' Nieto 'ready to go' for Game 1

San Jose forward has been out since May 9 with upper-body injury

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

PITTSBURGH -- San Jose Sharks left wing Matt Nieto declared himself available for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I feel I am ready to go," Nieto said Sunday. "The coaches know that. If my name is called, I'll be ready to go."

Nieto has missed the past seven games after sustaining an upper-body injury against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round on May 9.

"I've been taking part in practice for maybe the last week or so, and I am at a place where I feel really comfortable and strong and confident that if I play, I can be effective," Nieto said.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said Saturday he expects Nieto to be an option in the series, but remained uncommitted about what role the 23-year-old would play if called upon to enter the lineup.

Video: Sharks Forward Matt Nieto on Media Day

"He's one of our faster forwards," DeBoer said before the Sharks left for Pittsburgh. "He gives us a different dimension."

The Sharks have some flexibility among their bottom-six forwards. Center Dainius Zubrus entered the lineup in the second round to give San Jose more of a physical edge. Melker Karlsson is a puck-chasing forward. Center Nick Spaling has played in all 18 playoff games but has one assist.

Nieto could replace any of those players if DeBoer decides he wants to add more speed into his lineup to counter the Penguins, a team that is among the fastest in the League.

On Sunday, Nieto said that he is unsure what the future holds during the next two weeks, but he is going to enjoy the ride to the fullest.

"It's a hard situation," he said. "You never want to be watching this time of year, but the guys have been playing really awesome hockey, and it has allowed me to get some recovery time and have a chance to get back in these playoffs.

"It's just amazing to be here; very fortunate to be here in just my third year. There are some guys on our team that have gone 18 years and haven't been in this position. I'm taking it all in and enjoying every moment. The end goal is still to raise the Cup. It would be awesome to see those guys who have been here a long time to raise the Cup."

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