SAN JOSE Benn Ferriero experienced a pretty big high in his first stint with the Sharks this season, when he scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal against the Bruins on Oct. 22.
A Boston native, his marker in the third period broke a 2-2 tie against the team that has been arguably the NHLs best this season, when he outmuscled Bruins defenseman Steve Kampfer in front of the net to pounce on a rebound in what was a 4-2 victory for San Jose.
Just two games later, though, Ferriero was among a group of Sharks benched at the halfway point of a 4-2 win in Detroit on Oct. 28. He was reassigned to Worcester shortly thereafter, and hasnt been back until now.
With Marty Havlat out for what could be an extended period of time with a left leg injury, the 24-year-old Ferriero has yet another opportunity to establish himself as a regular NHL player. And this may be his best opportunity yet.
Taking a look at the lines from Tuesday mornings skate, Ferriero was on the wing with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Thats likely the look that Todd McLellan will use at the beginning of Wednesdays home game against the Lightning.
Every time Benn has come in to our situation, hes been an effective player. If Marty has any type of long-term injury, this will give Benny a chance to finally establish himself as a legitimate National Hockey League player, said McLellan.
Thats a great opportunity for him. Its his time.
Ferriero is Worcesters leading scorer with 20 points (9g, 11a) in 20 games. Although he seems pretty content with that output, its his defense that has improved this season, he said on Tuesday.
Personally, I feel like Ive been having a pretty solid year. Ive played a little bit more defense and my plus-minus has gone up from the past couple of years, and I think that has to with myself concentrating a little bit more on defense, said Ferriero, who is a plus-6 this season after ending the 2010-11 season in Worcester at minus-17.
Getting recalled to the NHL club is nothing new for him. Ferriero figured hes flown across the country at least 15 times in his three seasons with the organization.
Ferriero has shown some flashes of his offensive ability in the NHL, but has never been able to produce on a night-in night-out basis. Thats something McLellan wants to see from him now that hes back in the lineup, and playing with some of the big boys up front.
His stints over the last couple years have been very strong, said McLellan. What we need from him is to maintain that over more than a five or six game period. When we get to five or six, can it continue on to 10, 12 and 15 games?
When Ferriero plays in his 70th NHL game on Wednesday (including playoffs), he no longer becomes exempt from waivers. That is, if the Sharks decide they want to reassign him back to Worcester this season, he would have to clear.
Thats not something hes thinking about now, though. After all, its completely out of his control.
I knew that I had one more game left, but that doesnt really effect what Im doing here or the way that I approach coming to the rink or approach every game, he said. Thats up to the management, and is way out of my hands. I dont even bother worrying about that.
He is a little worried about something else, though. Ferrieros game sticks were still M.I.A. on Tuesday afternoon after his cross-country flight on Monday.
They were supposed to be in at 4:00 yesterday, but they havent arrived yet, he said.