Peter DeBoer’s San Jose Sharks will be facing elimination — and the prospect of watching the Stanley Cup slip away — Thursday evening, and if reports are to be believed, it will make for the third game in a row that Tomas Hertl is out of the lineup. DeBoer isn’t about to rule Hertl out, however.
According to reports out of the Czech Republic, Hertl’s home country, the winger won’t be able to get back into action this season due to a knee injury, which would be the same ailment that kept him out of Games 3 and 4 of the series. Asked about Hertl’s status, though, DeBoer wouldn’t budge from his previous stance that the 22-year-old is day-to-day and could return at any moment.
“(There has been) improvement every day that I've seen him…I term him as day-to-day,” DeBoer said. “This time of year, guys find an inner strength and play with injuries. I mean, that's just what these guys do at this level. I'm not ruling him out for any games.”
Hertl’s absence from the lineup hasn’t been an easy one for the Sharks to deal with through the two games he’s missed. Hertl’s production this post-season had been stellar up until the injury. In 20 games, he had scored six goals and 11 points while logging nearly 18 minutes per game, but it’s more than just Hertl’s contributions on the score sheet that have been hard to replace.
In Game 3, DeBoer tried to limit the line-shuffling by inserting Melker Karlsson from the bottom-six into Hertl’s place on the top line with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. That plan was deserted midway through Game 3 — which was the Sharks’ lone victory in the series — in favor of swapping in Logan Couture from the second line, however. The mix of Karlsson and Couture was again used alongside Pavelski and Thornton in Game 4, but this time to no avail.
With desperation setting in, it wouldn’t be shocking were DeBoer to load up his top line with Couture playing primarily with Pavelski and Thornton. That will make one line the obvious defensive focus, though. But in a series where the Sharks have only managed to score seven goals in four games, it might be more important that San Jose finds any way possible to spark their offense. If that means loading up the top line with Hertl sidelined, that might be the approach DeBoer has to take.