Sharks send struggling sophomore Hertl to fourth line

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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 CSNBayArea.com’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.