Hertl practices without no-contact jersey

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Tomas Hertl’s exciting rookie campaign came to a screeching halt when he suffered a knee injury due to a knee-on-knee collision with Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown on Dec. 19.

He won’t be back before the end of the regular season, but he still might join the Sharks during the playoffs. Even that isn’t guaranteed, but he took another step in that direction when he practiced on Wednesday without a no-contact jersey. Instead he skated as a top-six forward.

“You can read into progress, certainly. You can see it,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan told CSN Bay Area. “If you’ve been around our team for awhile and have watched him skate, he’s progressed along very nicely.”

McLellan added that he remains “a little ways away.”

If Hertl is able to play before the end of the first round, it would make for an interesting storyline. As things stand, the Sharks’ probable opponent is Brown and the Kings. So if he’s able to play again, the 20-year-old might be able to shape the latest chapter between the California rivals while getting some measure of revenge.

In a preview of that potential series, the Kings and Sharks will play tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.