SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks veteran defenseman Brad Stuart will make his debut Tuesday night against the New York Rangers after missing every preseason game and the first two regular-season games with a lower-body injury.
"I feel good," Stuart said after the Sharks' morning skate at the SAP Center. "Feel as good as I can without having played a game. That's the next step. I'm excited just to be able to get out there.
"Obviously it's going to be a bit of an adjustment for me going from just practicing to having to play in a game. Try to use my experience and try to get up to speed as quick as I can."
Stuart has played 924 regular-season NHL games, including all 48 last year with the Sharks after returning to San Jose, his original team, in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings. Sharks coach Todd McLellan said it's critical to have Stuart's "presence" back in the lineup.
"Our players like to play when he's involved in the game," McLellan said. "It's a simple as that. He's physical, a very good penalty killer, understands how we went to play and had the ability to play against other teams' top players. You get a guy like that back in your lineup, when he gets to the top of his game, it's a very welcomed addition."
Stuart will be paired with Jason Demers, as veteran Scott Hannan will come out of the lineup. Last year down the stretch and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Demers battled a high ankle sprain, and Stuart skated primarily with Hannan.
McLellan said he's been impressed by Demers' play this season.
"The fact that he's come in and re-established himself is the big thing for me. He looks a little more confident, he looks sure of himself, and I think that comes from health, the ability to start with a team rather than coming in late and trying to fit in," McLellan said. "He's shown us signs of his defensive play, which we believe is there. There's always work to do on the defensive end, but he's getting better."
Stuart played in 129 of 130 regular-season games the past two seasons. Being sidelined hasn't been easy.
"It's not a lot of fun to watch, but I guess when the team's playing well and winning it makes it easier," said Stuart, who was injured during offseason workouts. "You just try to pick up little things, see what the guys are doing, what's working and what's not working, and that's all I was able to do. And at the same time, work on getting yourself back. I'm as ready as I can be without having played a game so I'm excited to get back in there."
Here's how the lineups could look Tuesday night when the Sharks face the Rangers.
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy
Matthew Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - John McCarthy
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Brad Stuart - Jason Demers
Scratched: Scott Hannan
Injured: Adam Burish (lower body) Martin Havlat (pelvic surgery), Raffi Torres (knee surgery).
Brad Richards - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Taylor Pyatt - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Derek Dorsett - Dominic Moore - Arron Asham
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Michael Del Zotto
Anton Stralman - John Moore
Scratched: Jesper Fast, Justin Falk
Injured: Carl Hagelin (shoulder surgery)
Notes: The Rangers, who beat the Kings 3-1 on Monday night in Los Angeles, had an optional skate Tuesday morning with only a handful of players, who are not expected to play against San Jose, taking part. Backup goalie Martin Biron was on the ice, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start for the third straight game.