Mike Halford

Report: Hertl (knee) out for rest of Stanley Cup Final

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SAN JOSE — Just prior to puck drop of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, some tough news broke for the Sharks.

Per Czech TV station Nova Sport, San Jose forward Tomas Hertl — who hasn’t played since Game 2 of this series — is done for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final with a knee injury.

Hertl, 22, was probably the best Shark not named Martin Jones through the opening two games. He scored a power play goal in Game 1 and his shots run iron three games in Game 2.

“He’s arguably been maybe our best player through the first two games,” San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer said on Saturday.

With Hertl out, the Sharks have bumped Melker Karlsson up to the top line next to Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, though Logan Couture also played there for a good stretch in Game 3.

Related: With Hertl out again, Sharks wary of loading up top line

Well-traveled Sekac signs in KHL

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 11: Jiri Sekac #34 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks to pass against the Dallas Stars at the United Center on February 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Stars defeated the Blackhawks 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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After a tumultuous campaign, Jiri Sekac is headed to Russia.

On Monday, KHL club Ak Bars Kazan announced it had signed Sekac, after the 23-year-old Czech split last season between Anaheim, Chicago and Arizona.

All told, Sekac played for four different organizations during his brief two-year NHL stint.

He broke in with Montreal during the ’14-15 campaign and got off to a good start — seven goals and 15 points in 50 games — but eventually fell out of the lineup, and was shipped to Anaheim for Devante Smith-Pelly.

With the Ducks, Sekac showed flashes (seven points in 19 games), but was a non-factor in the playoffs. Midway through this year, Anaheim flipped Sekac to Chicago for Ryan Garbutt.

The Chicago tenure was the least successful of ’em all. Sekac played just six games for the ‘Hawks before getting put on waivers, and was claimed by the Coyotes.

Sekac closed out the year by playing 11 games for Arizona, scoring just two points. He was in the last of a two-year, $2.7 million deal and a pending RFA.

Not lacking confidence, Laine’s goal is to be drafted No. 1

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 22: Patrik Laine #29 of Finland skates against Canada  during the 2016 IIHF World Championship gold medal game at the Ice Palace on May 22, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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SAN JOSE — Patrik Laine didn’t downplay his confidence at the NHL scouting combine.

And at the Stanley Cup Final, he didn’t apologize for it.

“People can think what they want to think,” Laine said on Monday, as the top draft prospects descended on San Jose to meet with the media. “I don’t care. People who know me, that know me better, they know I’m a good guy and I’m confident in the right way.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”

If there’s one thing you can say about Laine, it that he’s consistent. His unflinching confidence was in lockstep with the bold declarations made at last week’s combine.

Laine said he thought he could be the next Alex Ovechkin. He said he has the ability to be the best player in the NHL. He said he was just as good as the presumptive No. 1 pick — Auston Matthews — adding that Toronto now “has a tough decision to make” with the first overall selection.

Ah yes, that number one spot. Laine wants it. And he’s gunning for it.

“Of course, I want to be the first guy,” he said. “I think that’s possible.”

And really, why wouldn’t it be?

Last month, Laine became the youngest player in the 80-year history of the World Hockey Championships to win MVP. At 18, he finished with 12 points in 10 games and tied Sweden’s Gustav Nyquist for the tournament goalscoring title. He set up the game-winning goal against the host Russians in the semifinal, and was also named the tournament’s top forward.

Think of it this way. Both Laine and Matthews are 18. Both played in the Worlds. Both had terrific tournaments — Matthews had nine points in 10 games, leading the U.S. in scoring — but Laine was judged to be the most valuable.

So why shouldn’t he think he can top Matthews?

“I would be lying if I said that ‘no, I couldn’t go first.’ That’s always been my goal,” Laine said. “After this season, I think it’s really possible to go first.

“I think [me and Matthews] are quite even. He’s better than me in some stuff, and I’m better than him in some things. I wouldn’t say one of us is better than the other.”

Of course, draft pundits and analysts concede Matthews will almost certainly go first overall, partly because he’s a center, whereas Laine plays the wing.

If that happens, don’t expect Laine to be disappointed. Oh sure, he’ll probably have a little envy about not being the No. 1 pick, but it will result in him falling to Winnipeg at No. 2, where one of his favorite players growing up — Teemu Selanne — began his Hall of Fame career.

“It would be nice to play there [Winnipeg], of course, where he used to play,” Laine said. “The city was crazy about him.”

The ‘Peg would probably be pretty crazy about Laine, too.

With Hertl out again, Sharks wary of loading up top line

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SAN JOSE — First thing first: Thomas Hertl (lower body) is out for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, his second consecutive missed game.

Now, for the ramifications.

What will San Jose do in his absence? Does Melker Karlsson resume starting duties alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski? Or, will head coach Peter DeBoer stick Logan Couture there, like he did in crunch time of Game 3?

“It helped us the other night, sure,” DeBoer said of loading up his No. 1 unit. “It would be similar to them moving Crosby, Malkin and Kessel together. You have three great players playing together.

“But in order to do that, that hurts you in other parts of the lineup. You have to be comfortable you can survive doing that with the other parts.”

Couture had 8:36 TOI with Thornton in Game 3, and 9:17 with Pavelski. The result? Terrific possession metrics — 75 CF percentage with Thornton, 67 percent with Pavelski — and some of the most sustained pressure San Jose’s had on Pittsburgh in this series.

Thornton finished with a pair of assists, his first points of the series, and all three finished with more than 25 minutes of total ice time. As such, it has to be tempting for DeBoer to go back to the trio for tonight’s Game 4 — but he was cautious about it on Monday morning, sounding wary of the potential domino effect.

“We got away with it the other night. We shortened the bench,” DeBoer said. “We had some guys, I thought, give us some real supreme efforts underneath that group.

“But I don’t know if that’s something that we can go to all the time.”

As such, in-game adjustments will be something to watch tonight. The Sharks had a highly optional skate — only the Black Aces participated, along with James Reimer — so there were no clues as to how DeBoer would run his lines.

Whatever the case, DeBoer has no worries about Thornton and Pavelski struggling to find chemistry with whatever linemate they get.

They’re not going to look at you like, ‘what are we doing here?’ They’re comfortable,” DeBoer explained. “They feel that replacement, there’s not going to be a significant drop-off.

Canada names Ducharme world junior head coach

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 26:  Anthony Duclair #10 of Team Canada celebrates his goal with teammates Shea Theodore #6 and Darnell Nurse #25 during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship game against Team Slovakia at the Bell Centre on December 26, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Hockey Canada has found the man responsible for getting its junior team back into the medals.

Dominique Ducharme, an assistant to Dave Lowry on the team that finished sixth at this year’s tourney, will be behind the Canadian bench for the 2017 WJC tournament in Montreal and Toronto, per the Canadian Press.

Ducharme, 43, has spent his entire coaching career in the Quebec League, first as an assistant in Montreal, followed a head coaching gig in Halifax — where he worked with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Nikolaj Ehlers.

This spring, Ducharme took the bench boss gig in Drummondville.

A former teammate of Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis at the University of Vermont, Ducharme played a handful of games in the AHL and ECHL before transitioning to coaching.

Ducharme’s biggest accomplishment as a bench boss was capturing the Memorial Cup with Halifax three years ago.