SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Tomas Hertl has been activated from injured reserve, and is will play in Thursday night’s Sharks-Oilers game at SAP Center.
Hertl, 23, has been out since sustaining a right knee sprain during a game with the Blues on Nov. 17. He underwent what the team called a “minor procedure” on Nov. 22.
“It was a long time and a lot of skating, but finally [a] game,” said Hertl, who has nine points (4g, 5a) in 17 games. “For sure, I’m excited. It will be hard, but I can’t wait to play again tonight in a home game.”
Hertl has had at least three procedures on his right knee, including a PCL and MCL repair following his collision with Dustin Brown on Dec. 19, 2013. His most recent surgery was designed to prevent further injuries to the knee, after a seemingly innocent run-in with St. Louis’ Jori Lehtera was the latest to knock him from the lineup.
But the Czech native indicated he doesn’t have time to worry about any future injuries if he’s going to play his game.
“During the game I don’t have time [to think about it]. I want to just play. … After many times what happened, I’m glad I’m fine for this and I believe my head will be fine,” he said. “My game is heavy, be strong, I can’t be waiting [for] somebody [to] hit me. If puck is there I need to just go, because it’s my game – take the puck, play hard. I don’t have time [to think about] my knee.”
Hertl has missed the past 32 games, and DeBoer compared his absence to when Logan Couture was hurt for most of the first half last season while battling numerous injuries. The difference this time is that the Sharks have played well without Hertl, posting a 22-8-2 mark while he’s been out, after struggling to remain at .500 when Couture couldn't play.
“Last year, we didn’t handle that as well as we’ve handled this,” Pete DeBoer said. “I think that speaks to our depth. We’ve had young guys come in and find a way to get us through losing a real good player for  games.”
San Jose will put its six-game winning streak on the line against the equally hot Oilers, who are 6-0-1 in their last seven.
What does Hertl want to accomplish against Edmonton?
“Just to play the game I played before, because I feel great,” he said. “I want to for sure win because [the guys have won] six in a row. … Just be strong on the puck, don’t be nervous. For sure [it may take] a couple shifts [to get up to] speed.
“But, hopefully I can hunt [Connor] McDavid all over [the] ice tonight (laughs). That’s about it. … I want to just win tonight, that’s the goal.”
It’s unclear whether Hertl will play on the left wing of the top line or he’ll immediately return to the third line center role, where he was at the time of his injury.
“That is a thought [playing him at left wing], but you also see the value in having a center ice of [Joe] Thornton, Couture, Hertl [and Chris] Tierney,” DeBoer said. “You see the depth, and the real good teams have that type of depth up the middle. That’s what we’re weighing out.
“Regardless of where he ends up tonight, I think long term we want him in the middle.”
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The Sharks reassigned rookie forwards Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier to the AHL on Wednesday, but they did not play against the Stockton Heat. They were both recalled on Thursday.
Barclay Goodrow was reassigned to the Barracuda, while defenseman Tim Heed was recalled.