SAN JOSE – There was a frightening moment for Sharks center Chris Tierney on Monday against New Jersey, when a hard shot point shot by Reid Boucher deflected off of Tommy Wingels’ stick and smacked the 22-year-old squarely in the face.
The immediate concern, of course, was for Tierney’s well being, as the puck hit dangerously close to his left eye. Thank goodness he was wearing a visor.
“[At] the moment you’re just hoping that it’s not too bad. … Just pretty lucky that it wasn’t worse,” said Tierney, who didn't skate on Tuesday to allow the swelling to go down.
From a team standpoint, the Sharks were also lucky that Tierney is OK. They’re going to need him even more now that Tomas Hertl will be out for the next several weeks with a right knee sprain, as he takes over as the third line center role for at least the time being.
Like many of the Sharks’ forwards, it’s been a slow start offensively for Tierney. He scored his first goal of the year earlier in that game on Monday, whipping a wrist shot past Keith Kinkaid on a shorthanded rush. For the season, he has five points (1g, 4a) in 19 games and minus-2 rating.
“I felt [my game has] been pretty good the last maybe week or so,” Tierney said on Wednesday. “Kind of up and down, obviously, so far this season. Felt pretty good last game, and a couple games on the road trip early on I felt pretty good. Just trying to build on last game.”
Pete DeBoer said: “He’s still a young player. He’s growing his game I think every time he gets out there, but for me there’s no doubt he’s a full-time NHL player, where last year at this time that was a question mark.”
There are some facets of Tierney’s game, though, that could use improvement. He continues to have some concerning nights in the faceoff circle, including taking an 0-for-8 on Nov. 15 in Carolina and following that up with a 2-for-9 against St. Louis two nights later. For the season, he’s at 45.3 percent.
The advanced stats have Tierney’s shot-attempt percentage in close games at 48.36, the lowest mark on the team among regulars.
Perhaps now that that first goal is out of the way, though, he can get going. He’s got a great opportunity in front of him, and among the players that have to step up in Hertl’s absence, Tierney’s name is at the top of the list.
“Whenever a player like Tomas goes down everybody has got to step up, especially centermen,” he said. “That’s kind of a void that needs to be filled. I’m going to do the best I can to make this chance worth it, and try to improve and get better.”
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Doug Wilson gave a little more detail on Hertl’s “minor procedure” that the 23-year-old was scheduled to undergo on Wednesday. The general manager confirmed that the injury wasn’t as severe as the one he suffered his rookie season when he required the MCL and PCL ligaments to be repaired.
“There’s no structural damage that rest won’t cure,” Wilson said. “[The] small procedure that we’re looking to do is almost like an internal bracing. It’s not repairing anything. The timeline works well, and it’s something that will support and maybe prevent this type of setback from happening.”
Will Hertl be out days, weeks or months?
“I think we’re looking at weeks. That type of sprain, he healed up last year, it takes some time. The reason for this small procedure is to make sure…it wasn’t really a major hit. This will prevent that from happening in the future.”
Hertl injured his knee for at least the third time in his career on Nov. 17 in St. Louis on what looked like a relatively innocent collision with the Blues’ Jori Lehtera in the second period.