Matt Nieto’s “Welcome to the NHL” moment may have come in the Sharks’ game in Boston on Oct. 24.

During that last-second 2-1 loss to the defending Eastern Conference champions, Nieto blocked a Dennis Seidenberg shot with his hand. He medicated the hand and played the next night in Montreal, in what was arguably his best game of the season, before sitting out the next two.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a struggle. Nieto returned to the lineup on Nov. 2 against Phoenix and had an assist, but he’s scoreless in his last seven games. The 20-year-old rookie was a healthy scratch for the first time against Tampa Bay on Thursday, making room for Brent Burns’ return.

Nieto, who has two goals and four assists in 19 games, reacted to his removal from the lineup after practice on Friday.

“I’m still learning. It’s my first year, and it’s early in the season,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have a lot of stars on the team to look up to and learn from, and they’re helping me out along the way. It’s just one of those things. I kind of got away from my game a little bit, but I’m waiting for my next opportunity.”

Nieto, a Long Beach native, specifically mentioned fellow Americans and previous linemates Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels for helping him through his first NHL season.

Nieto said: “They just say to keep working, whether I’m in the lineup or not, it’s out of my control. All I can do is work hard, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Todd McLellan indicated there are no immediate plans to send Nieto to AHL Worcester, despite the team getting healthier in the form of Burns and Marty Havlat. McLellan was clear that Nieto is not in the coach’s doghouse.