Hertl slowly pro­gress­ing for game readi­ness

La­banc’s con­fi­dence and eas­ing the bur­den on Suomela’s shoul­ders

Marysville Appeal-Democrat - - SPORTS - By Paul Gackle The Mer­cury News (TNS)

SAN JOSE – Pete De­boer is back at the white board, draw­ing up new line com­bi­na­tions to ab­sorb the po­ten­tial loss of a top-sharks for­ward.

To­mas Hertl, who left Satur­day’s win over the Philadel­phia Fly­ers with a head in­jury, missed prac­tice Mon­day, forc­ing the Sharks coach to go back into the lab­o­ra­tory and re­jig­ger his lines af­ter he’d just found a work­ing for­mula in the wake of Joe Thorn­ton’s rein­te­gra­tion into the lineup.

De­boer la­beled Hertl’s sta­tus as “day to day.” He doesn’t think the in­jury is se­ri­ous.

“I mean, you never know with those things,” the Sharks coach ac­knowl­edged. “You can al­ways have set­backs, but it doesn’t look like it right now.”

Hertl left Satur­day’s game at 7:36 of the sec­ond pe­riod af­ter his head col­lided with the shoul­der of Fly­ers de­fense­man Chris­tian Folin in the of­fen­sive zone. De­boer doesn’t think the hit to the head was in­ten­tional and wor­thy of dis­ci­pline from the league.

“I talked to Tommy, Tommy took the blame for it him­self. He thought he shouldn’t have made that type of move there,” De­boer said. “When I looked at it, I thought the guy stepped into him. I didn’t think it was high. Those things hap­pen. It’s a con­tact sport.”

With Hertl side­lined Mon­day, Kevin La­banc filled his spot on the Lo­gan Cou­ture-timo Meier line where he fin­ished the Fly­ers game. De­boer kept Cou­ture, Joe Pavel­ski and Joe Thorn­ton on sep­a­rate lines, a three-pronged at­tacked that pro­pelled the Sharks to vic­tory in the last two pe­ri­ods Satur­day.

The Sharks strug­gled to find the right line mix in losses to the New York Rangers and the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets last week af­ter Thorn­ton re­joined the lineup Tues­day. His move to third line cen­ter in the sec­ond pe­riod Satur­day gave the Sharks the multi-line at­tack they’d lacked ear­lier in the week.

On Mon­day, Thorn­ton skated with Bar­clay Goodrow and Mar­cus Sorensen on the third line. Antti Suomela, Rourke Chartier and Melker Karls­son filled out the fourth line while Evan­der Kane and Joonas Don­skoi skated with Pavel­ski up top.

“It’s part of what we deal with. You know that that stuff’s right around the cor­ner,” De­boer said in ref­er­ence to Hertl’s in­jury. “There’s no sense in wast­ing en­ergy be­ing frus­trated by it. You’ve got to test your depth and it’s an op­por­tu­nity for some­body else.”

But los­ing Hertl on an ex­tended ba­sis would be a sig­nif­i­cant loss.

On Satur­day, De­boer ac­knowl­edged that the Hertl­cou­ture-meier line has been the only com­bi­na­tion that’s worked con­sis­tently this year. Cou­ture is rid­ing a ca­reer-best nine game point streak and Meier set a fran­chise record by open­ing the sea­son with 11 goals in his first 14 games. Hertl is a key in­gre­di­ent to mak­ing it hap­pen be­cause of the space he cre­ates for his line­mates.

“Dur­ing this stretch, this line has been as hot as any line I’ve been on,” Cou­ture said. “I think back to when Patty (Mar­leau) was here, he had a bunch of goals to start a sea­son, but I haven’t seen a player score like Timo has. He’s been on fire.”

Dur­ing his first year in San Jose, De­boer pro­vided a glimpse into his coach­ing strat­egy. He said the art of coach­ing is know­ing when to turn the screws and when to loosen them be­cause a team or player is frag­ile.

With that in mind, it isn’t sur­pris­ing that De­boer went out of his way to praise La­banc on a ques­tion about Meier Satur­day night.

La­banc strug­gled might­ily dur­ing the Sharks three­game road trip to Nashville, North Carolina and Orange County last month, lead­ing to his de­mo­tion to the

Ifourth line in games against the Ana­heim Ducks (Oct. 28) and the Rangers (Oct. 30).

La­banc was try­ing to do too much af­ter record­ing just two points in eight games on a line with Pavel­ski and Kane. He made the prob­lem worse by turn­ing the puck over.

So af­ter scor­ing a goal Thurs­day and set­ting up two Satur­day, it makes sense that De­boer would de­liver a pos­i­tive mes­sage through the me­dia. The Sharks will need a con­fi­dent La­banc on the ice against the Min­nesota Wild Tues­day if Hertl isn’t able to go.

“Young guys strug­gle with the ups and downs of that con­fi­dence maybe a lit­tle more,” De­boer said. “Those lulls last a lit­tle bit longer. That’s part of learn­ing to be a pro is get­ting your­self out of those things quickly. On our end, we’ve tried to work him through it.”

An­other ben­e­fit of Thorn­ton’s move to the third line is that it should ease the bur­den on Suomela’s shoul­ders.

ISharks’ To­mas Hertl takes a shot against the N.Y. Rangers in the sec­ond pe­riod at the SAP Cen­ter in San Jose last Tues­day.

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