SAN JOSE — Sharks rookies Matthew Nieto and Freddie Hamilton may have made the team out of training camp, but that hardly means they're guaranteed regular shifts once the regular season begins Thursday at home against the Vancouver Canucks.
Nieto, it appears, will take Raffi Torres' spot on the third line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels. With the injured Adam Burish likely not available for Thursday's game, Hamilton could see time on the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard.
But how much ice time they each receive will depend on a number of variables, most notably their performance.
"They'll play as much as they earn," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Tuesday. "I don't know how many minutes they're going to get. I don't know how the game's going to evolve. We'd like to get eight to 11 minutes from our fourth line players, we'd like to get 10-13 minutes from our third line.
"If they're in those roles and things are going well and we're playing the way we're supposed to, they'll get those minutes."
Hamilton, who had 26 points in 71 games with Worcester last season, knows he isn't guaranteed much, but is excited about potentially making his NHL debut.
"A lot has gone on the last 24 hours," Hamilton said about finding out he had made the team out of training camp. "There were a lot of emotions, but you can't get too high or too low — whether I was going up or down. I've just tried to stay on an even keel and keep working hard."
McLellan said it's possible Nieto and Hamilton will see time with the special teams, although it's likely they will see more time on the penalty kill than the power play.
"We want them to take small bites," McLellan said. "Just feel good about playing and playing a regular shift. Once they're comfortable there, then give them a little more to chew on. In the meantime, we have other people who can fill those roles, too."