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Big names missing leads to experimentation and opportunity as Sharks open camp

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With seven players not yet in camp, the Sharks’ young players have a chance to make a big impression.

2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tomas Hertl noticed the lack of facial hair in the San Jose Sharks’ locker room on the first day of camp.

“It’s just a couple of guys here, and you don’t see Jumbo [Joe Thornton], [Brent] Burns here with big beards,” Hertl said with a laugh.

Burns and Thornton were among the seven players missing from the start of training camp due to the World Cup of Hockey. With their countries eliminated, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi will join the team soon.

But Burns, Thornton, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Mikkel Boedker remain in Toronto, as Canada and Europe compete in this weekend’s semifinals. That led to some changes to the Sharks’ line combinations.

Tomas Hertl centered Nikolay Goldobin and Joel Ward in the first session, and Patrick Marleau centered Matt Nieto and Timo Meier in the second. Paul Martin, meanwhile, played alongside Justin Braun instead of Burns, his usual partner.

“They’re very similar players,” Martin joked.

“With Brauner, it’s easy. You know what you’re going to get. [We’ve] both been around a while, so we know generally how to play the game.”

Head coach Pete DeBoer said he was not too concerned about missing so many of his regulars, and that it’s a rare opportunity for the young players to take on a bigger role.

“I can’t remember a training camp in my time in the league where you have six or seven key guys not here,” DeBoer said.

“If you’re a young guy, it’s a great chance to show your stuff until they get here.”

DeBoer told his young players that there are spots up for grabs, and that general manager Doug Wilson will open a spot for players that have earned it. Wilson said that isn’t just a possibility, but a reality.

“There’s a guy that’ll come in that I think everybody will say, ‘well, he was under the radar like a Donskoi,’ and not only make this team, but he’ll make us a better team,” Wilson said.

“We expect that.”

The new-look lines may not last long, but there will likely be younger, newer faces in the lineup when the defending Western Conference champions open the season on Wednesday, October 12th against the Los Angeles Kings.

For now, veteran winger Joel Ward said he’s enjoying the change of pace.

“I had a good time, but you gotta go and ask them,” Joel Ward said about lining up alongside Tomas Hertl and Nikolay Goldobin, “because they’re stuck playing with me.”