Consider this a case of the rich getting richer: the red-hot San Jose Sharks look like they’re getting Tomas Hertl back for Thursday after he was activated from injured reserve (according to the Mercury News).
The Sharks have been able to keep together even with Hertl missing 31 games – he last played on Nov. 17 – with a knee injury. They’ve collected 64 points in 49 games, leading the Pacific Division by one point on the strength of a six-game winning streak.
While Anaheim is San Jose’s closest compeititor for the division crown at the moment, Edmonton isn’t so far behind with 60 points in the same games played, so Hertl’s return will be welcomed that much more.
The 23-year-old only had an assist in his last seven games before being injured, but we’ve seen plenty of flashes (just ask Joe Thornton) of great play from Hertl in the past.
Hertl’s return could even be a nice balm for Sharks fans who didn’t appreciate the Tommy Wingels trade.
WATCH LIVE: Flyers at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry
Every now and then, a theme emerges, even on a busy night like Tuesday.
While it’s true that not every game was an upset, there were quite a few. And as far as the closer calls went, there were some that merely ended in surprising ways. So let’s go over the night in “lightning round” fashion.
… And what better way to start a lightning round than with the Tampa Bay Lightning?
It might feel weird to call this regular contender an “underdog,” but for now it fits, particularly against a team like their 2015 Stanley Cup Final opponents, the Chicago Blackhawks. If you’re the difficult type who still grumbles as the underdog designation, at least consider how Tampa Bay won.
The Blackhawks came into the third period with a 2-1 lead, then Nikita Nesterov tied it up. Tyler Johnson then struck twice (sorry) with two goals in 30 seconds and the Lightning ended up winning 5-2.
The Buffalo Sabres have been heating up almost as much as the Nashville Predators, but it’s the way they beat them that’s an especially big upset (that and Nashville’s recent run of greater success).
Nashville took a 4-2 lead midway through the third period, but Brian Gionta and Kyle Okposo tied it up pretty late. Jack Eichel then got the OT game-winner for his 12th goal of the season. It was fantastic:
Is there hope for the New York Islanders? That question seemed more reasonable than ever as they beat the still-surprisingly-strong Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Click here for more.
Now, not every game was shocking, although one might be taken aback at how upsetting things might be for the Calgary Flames after another loss (this time a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens). The Stars also squandered a 3-on-0 rush in OT and lost to the Wild, so things were upsetting for teams in more ways than one on Tuesday.
Weight lifted: Rising Islanders beat Blue Jackets, leave Torts speechless
The New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets stand as examples of how dramatically things can swing for NHL teams in 2016-17.
As you likely know, John Tortorella and the Blue Jackets were essentially left for dead heading into this season, with most of the questions surrounding the team revolving around whether Torts would even keep his job. Or, honestly, how long he would do so. That … hasn’t ended up being the narrative of these Blue Jackets. Not by a mile.
The Islanders sure looked hopeless when they fired Jack Capuano, too, with the definition of a mediocre record at 17-17-8.
Perhaps that will just be part of the story for the Islanders’ 2016-17 season, though.
Tuesday presented what might be a surprising plot twist, as the Islanders beat the Blue Jackets 4-2. With that, they’re now 3-0-1 under interim head coach Doug Weight (and 4-0-1 in general).
They’re now in a solid position to keep climbing up the East bubble with 49 points in 46 games played. They’ll need to keep this hot streak going to improve their odds of sticking with the wild card pack … but all of a sudden, the unthinkable seems reasonable.
Now, if you’re expecting Tortorella to congratulate the Islanders for showing some life after many gave up on them – not unlike his team – well … maybe ask tomorrow.