Sharks

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

hertlsidebarap.jpg
AP

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

The Sharks' game on Thursday was, without a doubt, the Tomas Hertl show.

Hertl has been playing at a high level throughout San Jose's current winning streak and added to that successful stretch Thursday by leading San Jose's offense with two goals against the Ducks. But then Hertl left the game in the third period after colliding with Anaheim forward Sam Steel and appearing to injure his leg. Hertl never returned to the game and was not available for comment following the Sharks' 5-3 victory.

Even after the postgame media scrum, there was no update on Hertl's status. But it's no secret that the Sharks, who are finally digging themselves out of their early-season hole, can't afford to lose him from their forward attack.

"He's playing tremendous," Logan Couture told reporters at Honda Center after the game. "You hate to say you get used to it because he's playing at such an elite level. But the way he's been playing over the last two years, he's been at that level. And he's getting better."

The captain isn't mistaken. Hertl really came into his own last season after head coach Peter DeBoer moved him to the center position, taking on more responsibility and becoming an irreplaceable force in San Jose's offensive arsenal. Now, after a slow start to the season, the Czech forward has come alive once again with goals in five straight games and is currently leading his team with 21 points. His performance through the first two periods of Thursday's game perfectly showcased the mix of physicality, goal-scoring prowess and relentless drive that makes him a power forward to be reckoned with. Not to mention, he plays well with a number of players on his wing, and the current combination with Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow has been one of the best lines -- if not the best -- the Sharks have put out on the ice since the start of November.

That's precisely why San Jose can't afford to lose him as the team climbs its way out of the Pacific Division basement.

An injured Hertl wouldn't just force DeBoer to shuffle up his lines, as he also plays an important role on San Jose's special teams, which have been one of the team's saving graces since the start of the season. There's no doubt that the Sharks would be missing a major puzzle piece if Hertl has to miss any games.

The Sharks have a packed schedule through the end of November with a mix of competition to face, from hosting the lowly Detroit Red Wings this upcoming Saturday to visiting the rival Vegas Golden Knights next Thursday. Given how San Jose's season began, there is no opponent on the horizon that the Sharks can look past.

[RELATED: Three questions from fans after Sharks' six-game homestand]

If the injury Hertl sustained Thursday causes him to miss time, San Jose's job becomes that much more difficult.

Aaron Dell lifts Sharks to big win vs. Canucks, earns another start

aarondellsharkscanucksap.jpg
USATSI

Aaron Dell lifts Sharks to big win vs. Canucks, earns another start

SAN JOSE - The Sharks named Aaron Dell the first star on the evening after they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at SAP Center on Saturday. Really, it would have been silly to give that first star to anyone else.

But in San Jose's first win with Bob Boughner behind the bench, the 30-year-old backup netminder didn't just keep the team in front of him in the game. He also earned himself his first back-to-back opportunity of his 2019-20 campaign, with Boughner all but confirming after the win that Dell would get the start over Martin Jones when the Sharks host the Coyotes on Tuesday.

Earlier in the season, Jones might have gotten the nod to start Tuesday's game regardless of how Dell played on Saturday. But this is Boughner's team now. And the interim head coach is going to play whoever the hot hand is.

"This is a competition," Boughner told reporters after San Jose's victory over Vancouver. "Both guys are good goalies."

Despite an up-and-down first few months of the season, Dell came up big in his first start of Boughner's tenure. He had a shutout bid going against the Canucks up until 7:57 in the third period. Sure, he let two goals in late, but he also strung together some highlight reel-worthy stops to stymie Vancouver's mounting offensive push. Dell stopped 33 of 35 shots, improving to 18-6-3 in his career when recording 30 or more saves in a contest. Needless to say, the performance added to Dell's glowing resume against the Canucks, who he holds a 6-1-0 all-time record against.

"He was our best player," Boughner said of Dell. "He made some key saves at key times and kept us in it when we were starting to take on water. That's what a goalie does in a win like that" 

Teammate Timo Meier agreed with his new coach

"Definitely wouldn't have been able to win without him," Meier said. "He was really solid in net. He played great for us. He's definitely a huge part of this win. He kept us in the game."

Although Dell will start San Jose's next game, Jones won't be sitting around waiting around for his next start. No. 31 is expected to get some extra practice time in with newly-appointed goalie coach Evgeni Nabokov, which Boughner sees as a big positive for San Jose's goaltending tandem.

"Jones is going to get a chance to work with Nabby for a few days, which is an advantage for us," Boughner said.

As for Dell's next outing, it's anyone's guess how he will play in a second straight start. He's 2-2-0 lifetime in back-to-back starts and, again, hasn't played consecutive games yet this season. If his next start is anything like his start on Saturday night, however, the Sharks should be in a good position to get another win.

Of course, San Jose's success won't start and end with how Dell plays on Tuesday against Arizona. The Sharks might have gotten into the win column on Saturday, but they still have work to do to improve the game -- mainly when it comes to playing tight defense for a full 60 minutes.

[RELATED: How Thornton, Marleay feel about ex-teammates as coaches]

"It's just one game so we've got to string some (wins) together," Marc-Edouard Vlasic said after Saturday's win. "We played better. We stuck more to our system. Turned (the puck) over too many times, but other than that, we played the way we wanted to."

"It's a start," Meier said. "We know there are still a lot of things we need to clean up, but it's a step in the right direction."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in skid-busting 4-2 win over Canucks

tomashertlsharkscanucksusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in skid-busting 4-2 win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE - It wasn't the cleanest game, nor was it the most dominant. And boy, did it get dicey there at the end. But heck, it was a victory all the same for the San Jose Sharks.

For the first time in the month of December, Team Teal (16-17-2) put a notch in the win column, holding on late to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game at SAP Center.

Still in search of that full 60

Perhaps San Jose's biggest issue in their last game was that they didn't put a full effort on the ice for all three periods, thus not being able to hold onto a one-goal lead with 15 minutes left in the game. While they played significantly better on Saturday against the Canucks (16-13-4), there was still some sag in their defense at points during the second and third periods -- especially late in the third period with the game on the line.

San Jose looked its best during Saturday's game when their defense played extra stingy -- pushing Vancouver's offense to the edges and not giving them enough time to get good shots off. Lucky enough for the Sharks' defense, the guy between the pipes was having a heck of a game.

On that note ...

Dell-ightful.

Maybe it was the slick black goalie pads. Or maybe he was just in the zone. Whatever the reason, Aaron Dell put on quite a solid performance in his first start of the Bob Boughner era. Dell was especially good in the second period when Vancouver made a push and pinned San Jose in their own end. His sprawling split save on a Tanner Pearson wrister toward the end of the second stanza was probably his most notable of the night.

The question now is whether Saturday's game earned Dell a second consecutive start in a row. Boughner appears open to the idea of letting both Dell and Martin Jones duke it out for starts. While Dell's shutout bid was snapped in the third period against the Canucks, he certainly made a case for himself starting another game.

The PK prevailed

Yes, the Sharks still need to tighten up for a full 60 minutes. But one area of their game that came up big was the penalty kill. And against the fourth-best power play in the league, that meant a lot for San Jose.

The kill came up huge in the second half of the third period when Kevin Labanc went to the sin bin and the Sharks were clinging to a 2-1 lead. While it is definitely preferable that the Sharks don't take penalties that late in the game when they've had trouble holding onto leads, at least they were able to get the job done.