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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 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



SCHEDULE

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AWAY
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STANDINGS

PACIFIC DIVISION
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 LAK 52 32 17 3 144 119 67
2 SJS 52 28 20 4 149 138 60
3 ANA 52 26 19 7 117 122 59
4 VAN 54 22 20 12 125 144 56
5 ARI 53 24 23 6 139 163 54
6 CGY 52 24 25 3 138 151 51
7 EDM 55 21 29 5 133 166 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 52 25 27 18 52
J. Thornton 52 12 34 17 46
B. Burns 52 18 26 -13 44
P. Marleau 52 16 17 -16 33
J. Ward 50 15 16 -10 31
M. Vlasic 49 7 22 10 29
T. Hertl 51 10 16 5 26
J. Donskoi 47 8 15 0 23
J. Braun 50 1 17 10 18
C. Tierney 50 6 10 -8 16
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Jones 25 15 3 .915 2.38
A. Stalock 3 5 1 .894 2.76
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