Author: James O'Brien

San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils

Sharks send struggling sophomore Hertl to fourth line


It sounds like San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl will leave the nurturing cocoon that is the Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski line. In fact, there might be some chance that he’ll watch Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders* in street clothes.

In other words, Hertl’s been bumped down to the fourth line and may even be a healthy scratch tonight, according to’s Kevin Kurz.

Update: Kurz reports that doesn’t sound like Hertl will sit out tonight’s game.

Really, when you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see why.

After showing some of that rookie year promise in his first four games (two goals on just six shots), the 20-year-old hasn’t scored another goal. He only has one assist in his last eight games. Hertl’s possession stats are fine, yet he’s not a defensive dynamo at this point in his career, so such a prolonged slump does indeed call for action.

As Kurz would say, he’s riding the “struggle bus.”

Honestly, as electric as his Dustin Brown-abbreviated debut season was, those of us who’ve been around the Jonathan Cheechoo/Sergei Samsonov block wondered how much of Hertl’s brilliant work came down to lining up with Thornton.

Even if “Jumbo Joe” inflates his numbers, the Sharks still have plenty to gain in getting Hertl back on track. Maybe a demotion or even a night in the press box will do the still-promising young forward some good.

* – Airing on NBCSN, by the way.

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Islanders close out season series

Brent Burns, Jaroslav Halak
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the San Jose Sharks host the New York Islanders at the SAP Center at 10:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks enter November with a similar goal: avoid many of their pitfalls from October.

San Jose might be feeling a little better about things lately, as the Sharks just ended a three-game road trip with a 2-0-1 mark. That’s not to say that everything’s perfect (they’re still just 6-4-2 and two of those games went to shootouts), yet things look brighter than they did considering their recent four-game skid.

After starting the season with a four-game winning streak, the Islanders are stumbling lately. They’ve lost two games in a row by a combined score of 8-3 and have dropped four of six. They face a tough first half of November, too, as this is the second game of a five-game road trip against Western Conference teams.

Similar strengths and weaknesses

There are some interesting parallels between the two squads. Both boast offenses that can unleash torrents of shots, yet the Sharks and Islanders would likely acknowledge that they’ve been struggling to protect their own nets, as well.

In 10 games, the Islanders have allowed 36 goals while the Sharks ceded 34 in 12 contests. Some of the Isles struggles are on Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, though: the Islanders are out-chancing opponents by more than three shots per game (32.8 vs. 29.6).

Islanders search for answers

One would think that offense wouldn’t the biggest concern for Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, yet it appears that he’s done some line juggling in preparation for tonight’s game.

Brock Nelson will play on the wing with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome will center Anders Lee and Matt Martin while Cory Conacher gets knocked down to a grinding line, according to New York Newsday.

“We’ve given it 10 games; now we’re going to see what Brock can do up there,” Capuano said on Friday. “That’s also our first power-play unit, so it makes sense to try it five-on-five.”


Fans of explosive hockey might be disappointed to learn that the Sharks and Islanders will meet for the last time (barring a Stanley Cup Final series) in 2014-15 tonight. The Isles won the teams’ Oct. 16 meeting 4-3 via a shootout as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo dueled Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. That game came before both squads staggered through the rest of October, so it will be interesting to see if tonight’s action is any different.

There’s a pretty good chance it will be exciting, though.

Note: John Scott won’t be in the lineup tonight, so it sounds like there won’t be any attempted retribution for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski.

Vanek claims he no longer gambles, isn’t ‘proud of his decisions’

Minnesota Wild v New York Rangers

A day after his agent issued denials about money laundering, Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek told reporters that he no longer gambles and wants to put all of this behind him.

Vanek also said that he made the Wild aware of the situation before he signed him, according to the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff.

Again, his agent Steve Bartlett denied the money-laundering claims on Friday:

“Now people are like, ‘Oh, Thomas was a money launderer. That’s totally false,” Bartlett told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “He was the bettor. He bet on football games. Obviously that’s what he was testifying to. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure that out.”

Click here for the original report from Thursday.

The 30-year-old is starting to get his feet underneath him on the ice after a slow start. Six of his seven assists in 2014-15 have come in the last five games, although he still hasn’t scored a goal as a member of the Wild. Minnesota faces the Dallas Stars tonight.

Preds’ Volchenkov faces hearing for hit on Flames’ Ferland

Pittsburgh Penguins v Nashville Predators

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Nashville Predators defenseman Anton Volchenkov will face a hearing this afternoon for his hit on Calgary Flames forward Michael Ferland. One would assume it’s a telephone hearing (since it’s on the weekend), yet the league didn’t clarify.

Volchenkov wasn’t penalized for a hit that took place during Calgary’s win on Friday. Video isn’t available aside from this GIF from “My Regular Face”:


Also, there’s this Vine video from Jason Gold.

We might get a video of the check at full speed if the league actually suspends Volchenkov, then. The 32-year-old has been suspended twice in his career: four games late in the 2012-13 season and three back in 2011.

Photo: Dalai Lama sports a Bruins cap


The Boston Bruins didn’t have a morning skate in preparation for their game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday for one of the best reasons one can conjure: the Dalai Lama was at TD Garden this morning.

One would think that the Bruins are OK with this situation, especially considering the moment when “His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet” donned a Bruins hat (via comedian Lenny Clarke):

/Files this under “Things you never expected to see.”

Then again, maybe the Montreal Canadiens actually have the edge in this area (gasps):