When Tomas Hertl showed up last season for the San Jose Sharks, he was a breath of fresh air.
His youthful exuberance and ability to score highlight-reel goals gave the already potent Sharks offense another weapon. A knee injury at the hands (read: knees) of Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown cut his season short, but with 15 goals in 37 games he provided the kind of impact that helps a team feel good about the future.
The Sharks had enough confidence in Hertl’s game to buy out Martin Havlat, move Brent Burns back to defense from forward, and to not really sign anyone to replace either of them up front. While Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture help make up an offensively frightening top-six with the forwards, it’s Hertl who figures to be the key.
Sound crazy? Not so much.
Hertl, while he was in the lineup, spent most of his time on a line with Thornton and Burns and was a dominant possession player (only Thornton and Pavelski were better amongst forwards). Keeping the puck and scoring a bunch of goals makes him invaluable.
With Burns now back on the blue line, Sharks coach Todd McLellan could create a Corsi nightmare for opponents by assembling a top line with Hertl, Thornton, and Pavelski together. Regardless of whether that happens or not, it’s Hertl that makes things happen for Thornton the set-up man.
With the Sharks offensive options thin outside of the top-six, having Hertl recreate what he did last season is vital for balance between the top two lines. If the goals evaporate, opponents will load up against Couture and Marleau’s line. Giving other teams fits defensively is what’s made the Sharks so good in the past and having Hertl pick up where he left off will only help that out further.
Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.
The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.
This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.
From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as NHL.com notes.
“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”
Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.
At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.
Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?
We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.
Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.
Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks
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Message sent or not via healthy scratches or not, Dave Bolland returns to the Florida Panthers mix on Tuesday.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, it’s maybe not under the most ideal circumstances, as part of the explanation for his return is Nick Bjugstad‘s absence.
The Miami Herald’s George Richards reports that Bjugstad is out tonight against the St. Louis Blues with an upper-body injury that he suffered during a Monday practice.
In fact, as you can see in the tweet above, the young forward was sent home because of the injury.
This forces some shuffling, with Vincent Trocheck moving up to the second line while Bolland centers the third combo as usual.
The Panthers are currently on a two-game winning streak and visit St. Louis as the second date in a five-game road trip.
This is also the early part of a span in which they play nine of 10 games on the road (counting Sunday’s away win), so a prolonged absence from Bjugstad could sting that much more.
The Los Angeles Kings lost one of their most veteran defensemen on Tuesday, as the club announced Matt Greene would be out indefinitely following shoulder surgery.
Greene, 32, had only appeared in three games this season, missing extensive time with the ailment. He had recently resumed skating with teammates and looked to be on the way back to a return, but never got to the point where he was participating in drills, or taking contact.
With Greene out of the lineup, the Kings have primarily gone with a six-man defensive unit of Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Christian Ehrhoff, Jamie McBain and Brayden McNabb. Derek Forbort and Jeff Schultz have also been in the mix, but sparingly.
If Greene misses extensive time, L.A. could be in the market for a defenseman come trade deadline day, like they were last year before acquiring Andrej Sekera from Carolina. Greene is one of the most playoff-tested players on the L.A. roster, with 79 games and two Stanley Cups on his resume (and another Stanley Cup Final, with Edmonton in 2006).