Programming note: Coverage of Game 1 between the Sharks and Kings begins tonight night at 7:00 on CSN California with Sharks Pregame Live.
SAN JOSE – For the first time all season, Raffi Torres and Tomas Hertl will both be in the Sharks’ lineup as they get set for their playoff opener against Los Angeles Thursday night at SAP Center.
Torres will return after missing the final 17 regular season games. He had right ACL surgery in September and played five of the first six games coming out of the Olympic break beginning in late February. Indications are he’ll start on the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and Marty Havlat.
“I’m looking forward to just the drop of the puck and getting out there, getting on the body and getting that kind of fun stuff out of the way,” Torres said.
The 32-year-old, who had five points in the five games he played (3g, 2a), spoke on his recovery process the last several weeks after being placed on injured reserve a second time.
[IN THE CREASE: Sharks open up playoffs with Kings]
“We just took it day-to-day. Unfortunately, there was a lot of setbacks and I wasn’t feeling good enough. I could have gone out there and played, but I didn’t think I was at the level where I needed to play at.
“Playoffs is a different story. You have to elevate your game. It’s about digging deep and looking and staring in the other guy’s eyes, and going to work.”
The Sharks missed Torres not only for the majority of the 2013-14 season, but for six of the seven games in last year’s second round loss to the Kings. The controversial forward was suspended for a Game 1 hit of Jarret Stoll.
Todd McLellan reflected upon Torres’ loss for most of that seven-game battle.
“We’re playing with some energy. We’re playing a strong forecheck game, which he can be the leader of that, in fact. … That comes out of the lineup. It affects our group, it probably affects the way their group thinks, as well,” McLellan said, pointing out that the Kings lost Stoll due to injury for the remainder of the series, too.
Hertl is expected to skate on the third line with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels. He played the final two regular season games after being out since Dec. 19 with a right knee injury. The rookie had 15 goals in 37 games in the regular season.
"Raffi brings his energy, his ability to be physical, retrieve loose pucks. I think his career's pretty well documented,” McLellan said. “He is what he is and when he's playing that way he's a very effective player.
“Tomas Hertl's more of an unknown, other than his really early days in his career before he got hurt. He obviously has a high skill level. He has the confidence for a young man to be playing in this situation. With both those players, there's some risk because of their time off and their lack of playing time down the stretch, but we feel that's a risk we're prepared to take."