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Sharks' Simek 'feeling good' after impressive season debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Simek, 28, played 12:49 -- all in 5-on-5 situations -- and recorded an assist in his first game since March 11, 2020, San Jose's last before the NHL suspended the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Czech blueliner missed the Sharks' first two games this season after experiencing pain in his surgically repaired right knee during training camp.
"I was feeling pretty good yesterday," Simek told reporters in a video conference Tuesday. "It was good after 10 months [to play] again, and today after practice I'm feeling good. I'm [excited] I can play tomorrow again."
Simek said it helped to have a couple of days off in training camp to rest his sore knee, and he made the most of his limited minutes Monday.
On a night the Sharks were outscored 5-2 in 5-on-5 play, San Jose played St. Louis even on the scoreboard (1-1) with Simek on the ice. The Sharks also attempted more shots (10-7) and generated more scoring chances (4-3) in Simek's 5-on-5 ice time, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Simek also assisted on Logan Couture's game-tying goal in the third period. He gathered a loose puck along the right boards, drawing two Blues defenders toward him before smartly back-handing a pass to Kevin Labanc in front of the net. Labanc re-directed Simek's pass to a wide-open Couture, who finished from a tough angle.
"I thought he looked pretty good for being out that long and for that being his first game," Sharks coach Bob Boughner said Tuesday. "Physically, I think he felt well after the game. He kept it simple and he provided a little grit and physicality back there, so I think he's just going to continue to get better."
Simek's strong debut might not mean more ice time, at least not right away. Although Bob Boughner admitted defenseman Erik Karlsson played too much -- 32:12 in total, to be exact -- in San Jose's season-opening win over the Arizona Coyotes last Thursday, both Karlsson and Brent Burns have played at least 25 minutes in the two games since. Nikolai Knyzhov, Simek's partner on the third pair Monday, has averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game during that time.
Still, the Sharks' schedule, as it is for the rest of the league, is unrelenting between now and the scheduled end of the regular season in May. For now though, Simek said he isn't stressing his usage.
"I was ready for more minutes [Monday]," Simek said. "I was ready for every shift, and it was coach's decision how much ice time I would have. But I'm happy I could play yesterday, so it doesn't matter how much time I had yesterday."