SAN JOSE – Although his head coach was non-committal in regards to his playing status, Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl left no doubt he is primed to go on Thursday against the Kings.
For Hertl, whose season was derailed by Dustin Brown's knee on Dec. 19, "It's personal. It's L.A.”
Through his improving English, Hertl said he was ready for his first taste of playoff hockey after suiting up for the final two regular season games against Colorado and Phoenix over the weekend.
"Oh yeah. For me, it's more motivation because [it’s] L.A. … I want to beat L.A.”
The 20-year-old is aware that the intensity of an NHL playoff game is ratcheted up a few notches from the regular season.
"More physical, more speed. For me, it's the first time. It's playoff time, and I hope it's good and I am ready.”
Immediately after the game against Colorado, Hertl indicated he felt the effects of not playing for nearly four months. He skated for exactly 15 minutes against the Avalanche on Friday, and for 15:40 in Phoenix the next night, including some shifts on the second power play unit.
So far, so good.
"The knee is OK. Just a little bit tired and sore a little bit because it's long time, no play,” Hertl said. “First two games back-to-back it's a little bit hard. Now it feels much better, and I am ready to start the playoffs."
Todd McLellan said: “The big thing is a sense of timing. When you don’t have that sense of timing you don’t feel what’s going on around you, it can be dangerous to you as an individual. … I’ve viewed the two games and watched them (on video), and I think he has a pretty good sense of that.”
The bigger question regarding the rookie sensation isn’t if he will play, but where? Hertl had success on the left wing of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, scoring most of his 15 goals on that line, but returned against Colorado on a third line with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels.
Monday’s practice saw Hertl still on that third line, despite him playing the third period of Saturday’s season finale reunited with Thornton and Burns. That could change, of course, before Thursday.
“He’s finding his legs,” Marc-Edourd Vlasic said. “He played on the top line with Jumbo and Burnzie a little bit, so maybe that will help him out, and maybe that will be a line going into the playoffs.”
Hertl said: "For me, it doesn't matter. I want to play, first line, third line. Any score to help the team is the most important. Joe is maybe the best passer. He made it very easy for me scoring.
“Now that it's playoffs, it's all just one team."
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Scott Hannan missed Saturday’s game in Phoenix with an upper body injury, while Bracken Kearns was not able to finish the game for unspecified reasons. Both said they were good to go for Game 1, if necessary.