And just like that, things have gone from bad to worse in Sharks Territory. After losing Tomas Hertl to a knee-on-knee hit from Dustin Brown during their 4-1 loss to the Kings last night, the Sharks have reportedly learned they'll be without the services of their standout rookie and Calder Trophy favorite for at least a month. Here's the word from Czech reporter Roman Jedlicka:
#SJSharks Tomas Hertl should be one month without hockey. Good source. Bad for Czech hockey team, bad for Calder Trophy...— Roman Jedlicka (@jedli) December 20, 2013
TSN's Bob McKenzie added that the timetable for Hertl's return could be even longer than that. It's a crushing blow to the 20-year-old's rookie of the year and Czech Olympic team chances but, most of all, it's a blow to the Sharks as they lose their second-leading goal-scorer and the nitrous in the engine of one of the league's most dominant lines. The hope is that the Sharks were able to beat out last night's holiday roster freeze to recall Matt Nieto from the ECHL Bulls. If they did, presumably Nieto, James Sheppard (who skated in Hertl's place for much of last night's game) or Tyler Kennedy (who started training camp alongside Joe Thornton and Brent Burns) will be slotted into the Tom, Dick & Hairy line.
The most important thing here is Hertl's long-term health so it makes all the sense in the world not to rush his return to the lineup. Still, a team that struggled mightily to generate five-on-five offense prior to this season loses a key component of their most reliable even-strength scoring line. Hopefully a power play that's been on the unproductive side lately, most notably in blowing Brown's five-minute major for kneeing Hertl last night, picks up the slack.
Update: Sharks announce they've recalled Nieto from San Francisco.