Matt Nieto got a chance to play with one future Hall of Famer in San Jose in Joe Thornton. In his debut with Colorado, he’ll apparently be starting on a line with another. Nieto will reportedly skate with Jarome Iginla, as well as Carl Soderberg, in his first game with the Avalanche at home against the Islanders on Friday night.
“Oh, man, that’s just awesome. You grow up watching a guy like that and to be able to get an opportunity to play with him is just an honor,” Nieto told the Denver Post about playing with the 39-year-old Iginla, now in his 20th NHL season.
Nieto, who was pushed out of the Sharks’ lineup and was waived by the club on Wednesday, went from last season’s Western Conference champs to the team with the worst record in the NHL. Colorado is just 12-25-1, buried in last place in the Central Division.
“I don’t think this is a bad team,” he said. “There’s a lot of talented guys in this room. A lot of young talent. It’s just a matter or being able to put a couple of wins together. We can definitely do it, just everyone’s got to be on the same page. I’m going to try to provide energy, use my legs, play fast, make plays, but also be defensively solid as well and try to be a good [penalty kill] guy.”
The biggest benefit to Nieto personally is that the pending restricted free agent will get a chance to play with the Avalanche. That wasn’t happening in San Jose, as he was a healthy scratch for eight straight games, overtaken by other players in the organization.
“It’s a good opportunity. I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “This morning, everyone is really welcoming, really nice to me, helping me out. I’m looking forward to going from here.”
Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said: “He’s an interesting guy. He’s got some good experience on a winning team. He plays with a lot of energy, he plays with pace and he’s a competitive guy. We need a little bit of all that in our lineup. He’s a good penalty killer as well, so he kind of brings us a lot of things we need.”
Nieto has two assists in 16 games this season, and totaled 70 points (28g, 42a) in 221 career games with San Jose.
The Sharks have a home-and-home with the Avalanche later this month, on Jan. 21 in San Jose and Jan. 23 at Pepsi Center.