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Hertl's Return Adds Explosiveness to Sharks

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 12:41 PM PT / 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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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 76 47 22 7 222 213 101
2 NSH 75 46 21 8 214 180 100
3 STL 74 46 21 7 226 182 99
4 CHI 73 44 23 6 207 167 94
5 MIN 74 42 25 7 211 183 91
6 VAN 73 43 26 4 211 195 90
7 WPG 75 39 24 12 212 197 90
8 LAK 74 37 23 14 199 184 88
9 CGY 74 40 27 7 217 195 87
10 DAL 74 36 28 10 232 236 82
11 SJS 74 36 30 8 207 210 80
12 COL 73 33 28 12 196 205 78
13 EDM 74 21 40 13 177 254 55
14 ARI 75 23 44 8 158 249 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 74 35 31 10 66
J. Thornton 70 14 48 -4 62
L. Couture 74 24 36 -3 60
B. Burns 74 16 38 -5 54
P. Marleau 74 17 35 -16 52
T. Wingels 67 15 19 -6 34
T. Hertl 74 12 17 -1 29
M. Nieto 64 8 16 -11 24
M. Vlasic 69 9 14 13 23
M. Karlsson 45 13 9 -2 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 29 22 7 .914 2.62
A. Stalock 6 7 1 .903 2.65
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