There's still a long way to go before he suits up in game action but Sharks rookie sensation Tomas Hertl, who hasn't played since sustaining a knee injury courtesy Dustin Brown on December 19th, moved a little closer to returning to the lineup today by practicing without an orange "no-contact" jersey for the first time. Per David Pollak of the Mercury News...
Hertl practicing without orange "no contact" jersey for first time. Progress for #SJSharks rookie.— David Pollak (@PollakOnSharks) April 2, 2014
McLellan says Hertl out of "no-contact" jersey is just one of many steps he needs to take before back in #SJSharks lineup. But progress.— David Pollak (@PollakOnSharks) April 2, 2014
Despite not having played in nearly three and a half months, Hertl still ranks 6th among NHL rookies in goal-scoring and was second on the team in that department when he went down. If he's able to return to the lineup at some point during the postseason, and it looks like he could be on track for that provided the Sharks make it past the first round, it would be a huge boost to the team due not only to what Hertl himself adds but what his addition would allow Todd McLellan to reconfigure his lineup into. Ultimately, the Sharks are still at their most dangerous when Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are centering separate lines; slotting Hertl back in with Thornton and Brent Burns would allow them to do just that.
And it's probably going to take that to defeat the Kings, which is one of many reasons the Sharks are best served to postpone their inevitable meeting with Los Angeles until the second round. Unless Anaheim seriously falters, San Jose will likely need to run the table the rest of the way in the regular season to do so but how awesome would Hertl returning to the lineup and playing a part in eliminating the Kings be? Pretty goddamn awesome, in my humble opinion. At any rate, there hasn't been any sort of indication from the organization that Hertl's return is imminent, and it's certainly still possible he doesn't play again this season, but today's development is a good sign. It means we're at least a little bit closer to experiencing this on a daily basis:
Tommy Wingels (@TommyWingels) March 15, 2014