Sharks notes: Strong start for Hertl

hertl_tomas_sharks_big_smile.jpg

Sharks notes: Strong start for Hertl

The Sharks organization’s list of blue chip prospects is a brief one, due in large part to consistent regular season success and high-profile trades like the one that brought them defenseman Brent Burns two summers ago.

Recent first round pick Tomas Hertl, though, is one player to keep an eye on.

Currently in his second full season in the Czech Extraliga, the 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft is leading his team (HC Slavia Praha) in scoring with 19 points (11g, 8a) in 26 games, including four power play goals. He’s tied for 15th in the league in goals and 28th in scoring.

Making Hertl’s numbers even more impressive is that the Czech league employs several players much older and more seasoned than the 19-year-old, and the competition has only gotten better during the lockout. Among Hertl’s teammates are 25-year-old Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka, while established veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Plekanec and David Krejci have all suited up for Czech teams while the NHL is embroiled in a labor dispute.
Hertl had 25 points in 38 games last year, and his success against older, more experienced players in his first full season was one of the biggest reasons the Sharks made him their first round choice in Pittsburgh in June.

“He plays with men and has been very successful already,” Wilson told CSNCalifornia.com on draft day. “We just expect him to mature.”

Wilson and company have got to be happy with that maturation so far.

* * *

Hertl, who had five points in six games in the World Junior Championships last winter, was one of two Sharks players invited to their respective country’s selection camp for the upcoming tournament. The other is Sean Kuraly, an American who dazzled at the national evaluation camp this summer in Lake Placid, NY, with six points (4g, 2a) in three games.

Kuraly is off to a slow start this year, with just three points (2g, 1a) in his first 14 games as a freshman at Miami of Ohio. Kuraly was drafted in the fifth round (133rd overall) of the 2011 draft by San Jose.

Wilson doesn’t like to put pressure on individual players coming up through the system, but was complimentary of Kuraly when I asked about him in October after he turned heads in Lake Placid.

“He showed what he’s capable of at that camp. That’s really all I’m going to say,” Wilson said. “I think you’ll see in the World Juniors this year, you’ll see some stuff.”

The World Juniors begin on Dec. 26 in Ufa, Russia, and conclude on Jan. 5.

* * *

Douglas Murray is the latest Sharks player returning to North America, according to a Swedish website.

A Google translation of the release – always a bit tricky – seems to suggest that Murray, 32, who played 14 games with second-tier club Djurgarden, could return to Sweden if the NHL cancels the 2012-13 season.

TJ Galiardi (Germany), Antti Niemi (Finland) and Logan Couture (Switzerland) have all returned to North America recently after playing abroad. Marty Havlat is also back in the Bay Area, after spending several months in the Czech Republic with his new daughter.

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

Programming note – Sharks-Avalanche coverage starts today at 6:00 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 29-16-2, 60 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Avalanche: 13-29-2, 28 points, 7th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight’s game is the second of a home-and-home for the Sharks and Avalanche, after San Jose’s 3-2 win in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday, and the final game of the season series. David Schlemko got the deciding score 1:18 into the extra frame, as the Sharks improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight against Colorado.

The Sharks have won four straight, while Colorado, just 2-14-1 in its last 17, has lost five in a row. The Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

***Colorado will reportedly give rookie Spencer Martin his second straight start after he made 27 saves in his NHL debut against the Sharks on Saturday. 

Martin Jones is tied for third in the NHL with 24 wins, and is 5-1-0 in his last six starts.

***Four of the Sharks’ last six games have been decided by one goal, including three in a row. San Jose is 16-10-2 in one-goal games – the second most one-goal wins in the league, and the most one-goal losses in regulation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The Sharks rookie has hit a bit of a wall since bursting onto the scene, going without a goal for the last 10 games. Coach Pete DeBoer said recently that he had a talk with the rookie about maintaining a high level of play, and Labanc has been more noticeable in his last two games, recording an assist in each. The 21-year-old has 14 points (7g, 7a) in 34 games this season.

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. No forward was more effective for Colorado on Saturday against the Sharks than MacKinnon, their lone All-Star, who recorded a game-high seven shots and set up the tying goal in the third period. The first pick in the 2013 draft has 10 points (7g, 3a) in 10 career games when opposing San Jose, and is Colorado’s leading scorer with 32 points (11g, 21a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones 
Aaron Dell

Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan Mackinnon – Mikhail Grigorenko
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne

Francois Beauchemin – Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin – Nikita Zadorov
Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas

Spencer Martin (starter)
Calvin Pickard

INJURIES

Sharks: Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (lower body) and Rene Bourque (lower body) are day-to-day. Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Erik Johnson (broken fibula) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I felt we did a pretty good job in our end, [but] we probably played there a little too much. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to coming out of our end or through the neutral zone. There’s going to be games like that and it’s good to find a way to win.” – David Schlemko, after Saturday’s win

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

SAN JOSE – It took overtime for the Sharks to surpass the worst team in the NHL, but the points are valuable any way they come in the second half. Here are our three takeaways from the 3-2 victory on Saturday night…

1 – Top guys struggle, but depth comes through

It wasn’t a very good night for the captain’s line, which was particularly sloppy on Colorado’s tying goal in the third period. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic weren’t much better, as the former was caught out of position a couple times, and the latter was tagged with six giveaways.

But those guys have been playing the bulk of the minutes lately, so they’re allowed to have an off night. At least, that’s how Pete DeBoer saw it.

“We've ridden our big guys pretty hard,” DeBoer said. “They played some tough minutes with some of the opponents we played this week, in L.A. and on and on. Tonight's a night you're looking for your depth guys to step up and give you some energy, and I thought we got that."

The Sharks’ fourth line was probably its best from start to finish, including Melker Karlsson’s goal, from Ryan Carpenter.

“[Tomas] Hertl's missed 30 games, so we needed somebody to come in and help us out in that area, and he's done that,” DeBoer said of Carpenter.

2 – Making it too easy on Martin

Spencer Martin was making his NHL debut in difficult circumstances, playing in front of what has been an incredibly loose team in its own end against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But, the Sharks made it easy on him most of the night.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a tremendous game, told the Denver Post that he thought Colorado was the better team.

“Tonight, we outplayed them,” he said. “We outplayed the team that went to the (Stanley Cup) Finals last year, and there were some bright spots for us. We have to climb out of this hole and have a good last 30, 40 games here and go into next season feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

They’ll get another chance against the Sharks on Monday at Pepsi Center as the teams conclude their two-game season series. San Jose will try and give the Colorado goalie, whoever it is, a more difficult time.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski said. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

Schlemko said: “We just didn’t have as much grind time in the o-zone as we usually do. If you’re not playing in their end you’re usually playing in your end.”

3 – Ward gets another on the power play

Joel Ward’s resurgence continues, as the forward again found a way to contribute on the scoresheet. His first period power play goal was one of the easier scores he’ll have, on a nice setup by Joe Thornton.

“[Thornton] had it behind the net and came around the side, and sent it to me on the far side, so it went in,” Ward said.

The 36-year-old Ward has nine points (3g, 6a) in his last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the last time he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 20, he had just nine points in 31 games on the season.