The San Jose Sharks had to make a few roster moves ahead of hosting the former Pacific Division rival Dallas Stars Saturday, Dec. 21. Thanks to an injury, those moves are among the pictured personnel in the spotlight at CSN Bay Area and in the official game preview on the team website.
Tomas Hertl will miss at least a month because of a knee-on-knee collision that earned Dustin Brown a match penalty. While the Sharks waited until swelling went down to do a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan for Raffi Torres, they are already waiting for the results of one done Friday on the Calder Trophy candidate.
As yet Hertl is not on injured reserve (IR) but his roster space was available. Thus San Jose recalled Matt Nieto from the ECHL San Francisco Bulls, where he had been designated in a moveclearly designed to keep him at their beck and call while making space on the roster.
No one at Friday's game between the Bulls and the Colorado Eagles ever even saw Nieto enter the facility. Despite a game that saw the home team score three goals in a period of 7:35 to claw their way back from a 5-0 deficit against an elite ECHL team, all the talk was about the hit on Hertl and subsequent lack of discipline to Dustin Brown.
It is likely a serious enough injury to keep Hertl from representing the Czech Republic at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The hit may not have been egregious, but Brown absolutely chose making contact over avoiding the dangers of it being knee-on-knee. When a player has history of such hits, at least a stiff fine is needed to curb such negligent if not reckless choices.
The Sharks cannot focus on what happens with a Pacific Division rival they will not play again until the end of January. Brown would not have still been out by that time and they may even have Hertl back by then.
San Jose does have to figure out how to score without the team leader in goals. They have become offensively unreliable, with only 17 goals in their last eight games (2.13 average). They are 2-5-1 during that stretch and have not scored more than three goals against any team but the St. Louis Blues since a month ago to the day from the upcoming Dallas game.
The Sharks should be able to find the twine in this game against a team that gives up 2.91 goals per game. The power play should also have a chance to get healthy against a penalty kill in the bottom half of the NHL.
However, San Jose struggled to set lines with Brent Burns out of the lineup. It remains to be seen who will be on the left wing of Joe Thornton Saturday.
Martin Havlat is not a good fit since that would put two passers on a line together. Patrick Marleau has chemistry with Thornton and might thrive even more away from the struggling Logan Couture.
Coach Todd McLellan may also elect to keep them together to present two threats, and could decide to elevate Joe Pavelski or risk spreading the scoring talent thinner by keeping him on the third line. Then Tommy Wingels and Tyler Kennedy would be the most likely players elevated to a scoring-line role.
Even without Hertl, the Sharks maintain the previously-examined personnel advantage in this game. That makes winning about what they do, not their opponent. They must play this game as though the Stars are still Pacific Division rivals to stop their fall from the best record in the NHL to just sixth in the Western Conference.
Look for live updates from the game to the San Jose Sharks Examiner Twitter feed.