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Hertl's Return Adds Explosiveness to Sharks

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 3:41 PM / News
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Hertl\'s Return Adds Explosiveness to Sharks
The return of rookie forward Tomas Hertl adds a whole new element to the offensive attack of the San Jose Sharks entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The San Jose Sharks obviously were hoping they'd found a gem in Czech forward Tomas Hertl when he was selected at No. 17 in the 2012 NHL Draft.

And they weren't disappointed when he made the opening-night roster this season at age 19. He scored six goals in his first three games, including a dazzling four-goal game against the New York Rangers on Oct. 8; he was the youngest player since Jimmy Carson in 1988 to score four in a game.

"He just thinks the game at a higher level," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told USA Today earlier this season. "He's a pretty well-rounded player. He plays in all three zones. He's defensively aware; he's got the sense to play with some high-end players."

Hertl had 25 points to lead all rookies when his season came to a crashing halt Dec. 19 against the Los Angeles Kings. A knee-on-knee collision with Kings captain Dustin Brown left Hertl with two damaged ligaments in his right knee. The ligaments were surgically repaired Dec. 31.

It was feared Hertl would be lost for the season, but he began skating in late February and returned to the lineup April 11, with two games remaining in the regular season.

The Sharks haven't struggled much since Hertl was injured, but his potential return to form adds an extra element of explosiveness to the lineup at the most important time of the season.

"I am very excited because it's four months of not playing hockey," Hertl said the day he returned. "I'm very happy [it's] before playoffs. I hope it's all good and knee is OK. I'm ready to play, and ready to play in the playoffs."

When Hertl went out of the lineup, he was playing on the Sharks' top line, alongside Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. Joe Pavelski has found a home there for now. Though Hertl could regain that prime spot, coach Todd McLellan has the luxury of not needing to rush the rookie.

In Hertl's first game he started on the third line, with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels, and also saw some power-play time.

McLellan said it would be an ongoing assessment to see where Hertl best fits in the lineup.

"We'll play it shift-by-shift," he said. "He'll give us an indication fairly early of what his condition level is like, and timing, and all that."

McLellan tried to downplay Hertl's return; because Hertl turned 20 a month before his injury and he has fewer than 40 games of NHL experience.

"It's an exciting thing to see him back in the lineup," McLellan said the morning it was announced Hertl would return. "But we're tempering that excitement. … If he comes out and scores and has a great game that's fabulous, but this young player hasn't played since early December."

However, the addition of a player as dynamic and gifted as Hertl only bolsters the Sharks' already strong Stanley Cup chances.

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
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