SAN JOSE – It didn’t take long for Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart to announce his return to the HP Pavilion faithful.
In just the second home game of the season since an offseason trade with Detroit, Stuart, who began his career in San Jose, turned the tide of a game against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 26 with his crunching hit of Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog in the neutral zone. Ryan O’Byrne immediately challenged Stuart to a fight, and the result was a four-minute power play for the Sharks, in which they scored twice. The eventual 4-0 win was San Jose’s fourth straight to start the season.
Landeskog went to the locker room after the hit and later returned to the game, but then missed 11 straight with a concussion. He returned over the weekend, and will be in the lineup on Tuesday night when the teams meet for the first time since that eventful collision.
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There’s a possibility that even though O’Byrne jumped Stuart after the hit, someone on the Colorado roster could make a run at the veteran blueliner. Stuart isn’t concerning himself with that, though.
“I think that score has been settled, as far as I’m concerned,” the defenseman said on Tuesday, after the morning skate. “If they want to concern themselves with that, that’s good for them. I’ll be ready the game. We saw how that worked out for us last time, so that will be something if they’re worried about it’s fine, but I’m not worried about it at all.”
Stuart wasn’t suspended for the hit, and Landeskog himself said afterwards he thought it was clean.
An honest player who has no history of taking cheap shots, Stuart was glad to see the young captain return on Saturday in Los Angeles.
“Outside of the Avalanche organization, I was one of the happier guys to see him back,” Stuart said. “I didn’t like seeing the fact that he wasn’t playing. So to see him back playing is great, and other than that I’m just focused on what we’ve got to do.”
For his part, Landeskog has no ill will towards Stuart, who apologized to him later in the game when Landeskog returned in the second period.
“I don’t have any grief against Brad Stuart, or anything. He apologized after the hit, and said he had no intention of hurting me,” Landeskog said. “No hard feelings there, but I’m excited to get out there and show them what I can do and that I can take that.”
Does the 20-year-old expect someone to retaliate against Stuart?
“I don’t know. I don’t know how we feel about that. As a hockey team, we’ve moved on. There’s been about 13 games after that, and Ryan O’Byrne did a great job stepping in, and that’s the way hockey goes. If someone takes a big hit, then your team responds, and that’s what Ryan did.”
The Avalanche will be without leading scorer Matt Duchene against the Sharks. The forward has a groin injury, according to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post.
Duchene leads Colorado with 17 points (6g, 11a).
In goal, Semyon Varlamov will oppose San Jose’s Antti Niemi.