In the Crease: Sharks' Hertl starting on third line vs. Avs

In the Crease: Sharks' Hertl starting on third line vs. Avs
April 11, 2014, 12:45 pm

Tomas Hertl returns to the starting lineup and is expected to skate on the third line with Tommy Wingels. (USTSI)

Programming note: Avalanche-Sharks coverage begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California Plus (Territory restrictions apply) Channel locations

Where they stand

Sharks: 49-22-9, 107 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 5th Western Conference
Avalanche: 52-21-7, 111 points, 1st Central Division, 2nd Western Conference

Playoff watch

The Sharks are locked into the second seed in the Pacific Division, and will host the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, beginning next week. Dates and times have yet to be announced by the NHL.

The latest

Sharks: Anaheim clinched the Pacific Division by beating the Sharks at Honda Center on Wednesday, 5-2. Jason Demers and Logan Couture scored in the loss, and goalie Antti Niemi was pulled after allowing three goals on 19 shots. The Sharks will play their final home game of the regular season tonight, where they are 28-7-5, and wrap things up on Saturday in Phoenix.

Avalanche: Colorado still has a chance to finish as the top seed in the Western Conference, thanks to an 8-0-1 mark in its last nine. The Avalanche are playing the third of a four-game road trip to close out the season, and beat Vancouver last night, 4-2. Paul Stastny had two goals, and Semyon Varlamov made 38 saves. The Avs' season concludes in Anaheim on Sunday.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Tomas Hertl. The rookie will return to action for the first time since Dec. 19, but he won’t start on his regular line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns - indications are he'll skate with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels on the third line. It’s a good time for Hertl to return, in that Todd McLellan can ease him back into action in two games that don’t matter in the standings. Having a healthy, productive Hertl would be a huge boost to the Sharks and their forward depth, which has been lacking for several weeks now.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie. The Colorado defenseman scored his 13th goal in Vancouver last night, and was his fifth game-winner of the season. The 22-year-old’s 38 points from the blue line is second only to Erik Johnson (39), and his +18 rating is third on the team. Barrie is the first NHL defenseman to score three overtime goals in one season since Dustin Byfuglien in 2010-11.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.89 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.38 (6th)
Power play: 17.1 percent (20th)
Penalty kill: 84.7 percent (7th)

Avalanche
Goals per game: 3.02 (4th)
Goals-against per game: 2.60 (13th)
Power play: 20.1 percent (7th)
Penalty kill: 80.4 percent (24th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Marty Havlat
Tomas Hertl – James Sheppard – Tommy Wingels
Tyler Kennedy – Bracken Kearns – Mike Brown

Matt Irwin – Jason Demers
Scott Hannan – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Justin Braun

Alex Stalock (confirmed starter)
Antti Niemi

Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog – Paul Stastny – John Mitchell
Ryan O’Reilly – Nathan MacKinnon – Jamie McGinn
Patrick Bordeleau – Marc-Andre Cliché – Max Talbot
Ryan Wilson – Brad Malone – Paul Carey

Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
Tyson Barrie – Nate Guenin
Nick Holden – Andrew Benoit

Reto Berra (confirmed starter)
Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Raffi Torres (soreness/right knee surgery) and Adam Burish (left hand) are out. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (healthy), Matt Nieto (healthy) and Andrew Desjardins (healthy) are doubtful.

Avalanche: Alex Tanguay (hip surgery), P.A. Parenteau (right knee), and Matt Duchene (knee) are out. Cory Sarich (back) and Cody McLeod (sprained left ankle/knee) are questionable.

Season/All-Time series

Colorado has won two of the three games in the season series in regulation, and lost in a shootout in their only visit to SAP Center on Dec. 23, 5-4. The Avs won both of their home games with the Sharks; 4-3 on Jan. 4 and 3-2 on March 29.

Nathan MacKinnon has three goals in the season series. Joe Thornton has five points, all assists, against the Avalanche.

The Sharks are 34-37-5 all-time against Colorado, with five ties.

Quoteable

“We still like our team and we like our chances going into these playoffs. We’re going to have a tough battle no matter who we were about to face, but obviously we’ve got our hands full with the team we’re going to [play].” – Dan Boyle

Burning question

How would you set the Sharks' lines if Hertl and Torres both play in the playoffs, as expected? Leave your answer in the comments section below.

 

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