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Sharks' Nieto could miss Game 7 against Predators

San Jose forward absent from practice with undisclosed injury

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- In the San Jose Sharks' first 11 games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they didn't have one player miss a game because of injury.

That could change in Game 7 of their Western Conference Second Round series against the Nashville Predators at SAP Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Sharks forward Matt Nieto, who sustained an undisclosed injury late in the first period of Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena on Monday, missed practice Wednesday. Nieto was injured crashing into a post on a rush and didn't return to the game.

"We'll look at him again [Thursday]," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.

Melker Karlsson moved from the fourth line to Nieto's spot at left wing on the third line with center Chris Tierney and Joel Ward during practice. Tommy Wingels, a healthy scratch the past two games after being in the lineup the first nine, skated on the fourth line with center Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus.

"It's tough," Tierney said of possibly being without Nieto for Game 7. "He's a big part of this team. He's a key player. He [kills penalties], he brings a lot of speed, he's good defensively, he can make plays offensively. Obviously it [stinks] if he can't go, but this team's really deep, and that's what we've been saying all year. Our depth, that's what makes it good. If a guy goes down we can have another step in.

Video: SJS@LAK, Gm5: Nieto scores off of Ward's feed

"I like playing with Melker. He and Nieto are kind of similar players. They both work hard, they both have speed, they're quick and can make plays. Melker, he's going to bring it every night. It's nice to have a guy no matter what he's going to show up and he's going to work his hardest. And he has a nose for the net. Hopefully if we're playing [together Thursday] we can get some chemistry."

Wingels has a goal and was a plus-2 in nine playoff games, averaging 10:49 of ice time. He has appeared in 32 playoff games with one goal and six assists. He had seven goals and 11 assists in 68 regular-season games.

Wingels said if he's in the lineup for Game 7, he'll try to play with his typical energy.

"Use my speed, create some scoring chances, be physical, get in on the forecheck," Wingels said. "All the little things that hopefully make the team successful and win the game."

Wingels watched the Sharks defeat the Predators 5-1 at home in Game 5 then lose 4-3 in overtime on the road in Game 6, when they had 18 shots and squandered leads of 2-0 and 3-2.

"I think everyone sees the difference between Game 5 and Game 6," Wingels said. "In Game 5, we were the aggressor. We were on the right side of pucks, we were winning battles. We were driving the play. That's pretty much the complete opposite of that in Game 6.

"The formula is there for us. We know what kind of game we need to play to win. We feel like if we play that game, the result will be the one we want."

Tierney said Wingels will "bring a lot of jump" to the Sharks if he returns to the lineup.

"He's a fast guy, he'll get on the forecheck, finish hits," Tierney said. "He's a guy if he gets back in, he's going to be hungry and he's going to go hard. That's just the way he is. He's a focused guy and he'll be ready to go."

Karlsson has spent time on all four lines this season, and has skated at times with Tierney and Ward.

"I'm going to bring my A-game," Karlsson said. "I think everyone knows that, everyone needs to do that. We need to win. Just play hard, fast. Play how we did in the fifth game."

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