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Sharks Rookie Tomas Hertl to Rejoin Lineup

Friday, 04.11.2014 / 5:18 PM / News
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Sharks Rookie Tomas Hertl to Rejoin Lineup
San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl will be in the lineup Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche for the first time since Dec. 19.

SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl will be in the lineup Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche for the first time since Dec. 19, when he suffered a major injury to his right knee during a game against the Los Angeles Kings.

Hertl underwent surgery Dec. 31 to repair two ligaments that were damaged by a knee-on-knee hit from Kings forward Dustin Brown. Hertl had 15 goals and 10 assists in 35 games before being injured.

"I'm very excited because it's four months not playing hockey," Hertl said after the Sharks' morning skate. "I'm very happy. I hope it's all good, the knee is OK. I hope I'm ready to play and ready to play in the playoffs."

Hertl, 20, has been practicing with the team for weeks and reportedly was cleared by two independent doctors, including the physician who performed his surgery.

"It’s a great story," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of Hertl's comeback. "A lot of guys probably would have been done for the entire postseason. But Tomas worked extremely hard. He’s a great kid. I think all of the guys in here are very, very happy to see him back. We're really pulling for him to have a good postseason."

Before begin injured, Hertl skated on the top line with Thornton and forward Brent Burns. He'll skate on the third line against Colorado with center James Sheppard and forward Tommy Wingels.

"We're all excited," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He in particular, and his teammates and anybody involved in the organization, but with that is a guarded sense of optimism. He hasn't played for a long time, hasn't practiced a lot. We're going to try and get him a couple of games before the playoffs and see where he is timing-wise, conditioning-wise, so that we can make a judgment call on his availability moving forward.

"We'll play it shift-by-shift. We're going to see. He'll give us an indication fairly early of what his conditioning level is like, and timing. I'd like in this situation tonight to play four lines, just to roll them and make sure everybody gets an opportunity to play. I'd like Tomas to experience all of the moments that he might regularly experience, whether that's a little bit of time on the power play if we happen to get a power play. Regular shift. Again, it's going to be a shift-by-shift analysis and see how he feels."

The Anaheim Ducks clinched the Pacific Division crown Wednesday with a 5-2 victory against the Sharks. San Jose will finish in second place and will open the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a first-round series against the Kings.

The Sharks' final two regular-season games -- against Colorado and Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes -- won't affect their playoff status, so they can afford to rest some regulars and let Hertl tune up for the playoffs.

"I don't like these games, to tell you the truth," McLellan said. "We just said in the coaches' room, they are games that we're trying to get ready, we're trying to get our game together. But at the end of the day, my approach as a coach will be to back a few people off a little bit. That sometimes sends a message to the team you can be casual, which in turn ends up being a nightmare. I hope that our players don't take that message that way. We'll see it with the penalty kill. We may use some different people and give them that experience tonight. It doesn't mean we don't work on our game. It doesn't mean that we don't try and be as elite as possible. But I just don't like these games."

Goaltender Alex Stalock will start for the Sharks, and stellar defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be out of the lineup for the first time this season. He has played 80 games for the Sharks and played for Canada in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, winning a gold medal.

Forward Raffi Torres (knee) will miss his 16th straight game and won't play Friday at Phoenix, McLellan said.

Colorado has already earned a playoff spot and can clinch the Central Division title with a victory in any fashion against San Jose and a regulation loss by the St. Louis Blues against the Dallas Stars. Colorado still has a chance to finish with the best record in the Western Conference.

The Avalanche, coming off a 4-2 road victory Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks, did not skate Friday morning. They are also expected to get a player back, as forward PA Parenteau returns from a knee injury suffered March 10 against the Winnipeg Jets. Parenteau could slot in at right wing on the first line in place of John Mitchell.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, however, has told reporters that Reto Berra, his No. 3 goaltender, will start against San Jose. Berra came to the Avalanche from the Calgary Flames on March 5 in a trade for a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. He has started one game for Colorado, stopping 22 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on March 19.

In his only career appearance against San Jose, Berra stopped 32 of 35 shots on Nov. 12 for Calgary in a 3-2 overtime loss.

By Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NSH 63 41 15 7 191 151 89
2 ANA 64 40 17 7 189 177 87
3 STL 63 40 18 5 197 159 85
4 CHI 63 37 21 5 183 150 79
5 WPG 64 32 20 12 179 172 76
6 VAN 62 36 23 3 180 167 75
7 MIN 62 33 22 7 176 161 73
8 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
9 LAK 62 29 21 12 166 162 70
10 SJS 63 30 25 8 175 181 68
11 COL 63 27 25 11 167 182 65
12 DAL 63 27 26 10 196 210 64
13 ARI 63 20 36 7 138 214 47
14 EDM 63 18 35 10 143 208 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 63 31 26 12 57
L. Couture 63 21 32 0 53
J. Thornton 59 12 40 -2 52
B. Burns 63 16 30 -4 46
P. Marleau 63 14 31 -16 45
T. Wingels 56 13 15 -5 28
T. Hertl 63 10 14 -3 24
J. Braun 52 1 19 2 20
M. Vlasic 58 7 11 10 18
M. Nieto 53 4 13 -10 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 24 17 7 .912 2.62
A. Stalock 5 7 1 .899 2.85
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