SAN JOSE -- For the third straight day, the Sharks had a different look to their forward lines.
On Wednesday, Joe Pavelski was back on the top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, where he began the week, while Tomas Hertl skated in a third line role with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels. The second line remained Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, with Matt Nieto and Marty Havlat taking turns on the right side. The fourth line was everyone else, including Raffi Torres, Tyler Kennedy, Mike Brown, Andrew Desjardins and Bracken Kearns.
The Sharks will get their preferred matchup in the first two games at home, so one thought is Pavelski could center the third line when the series shifts to Staples Center for Games 3 and 4.
Furthermore, the final decision could depend on the status of Torres and Hertl.
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McLellan stopped short of saying Torres was ready to go for Game 1, but it sounds likely.
“Today, he looked even better. You can probably interpret that as him being ready to go,” McLellan said. “Now, with that being said, I haven’t sat with him, I haven’t met with him after the skate today yet.”
As for Hertl, whose evaluation in the final two games of the regular season was tough to gauge based on the reduced intensity level, McLellan also painted an encouraging picture regarding the 20-year-old rookie.
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The coach said: “He is getting better and better. Some of that is our mindset. We begin to think of him as a regular player. You don’t think of him as an injured guy working his way back in. If he feels that from us and from his teammates, it even moves him along quicker and further.”
The starting goaltender announcement will be delayed another day, but towards the end of practice, it was Antti Niemi between the pipes during special teams practice while Alex Stalock was on the other end with the lower profile players. McLellan revealed that the playoff starter has known “for awhile,” and considering Niemi started five of the last six games, he remains the better bet to get the call for Game 1.
The Sharks’ top power play unit remains Thornton, Burns, Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.