SAN JOSE — The Sharks will enter unfamiliar territory if they have to go without both Joe Thornton and Logan Couture for Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks and beyond.
With that in mind, it figures that players like Tomas Hertl will have a more important role with the Sharks than ever before.
The Sharks, after Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Canucks, were all saying that it’s going to take a group effort to make up for the absence of Thornton and Couture. No one player is going to replace the playmaking ability and leadership of Thornton, plus Couture’s versatility on special teams and ability to match up against top centers on opposing teams.
What they’ll likely need to do is put a bit more responsibility on the broad shoulders of Hertl, who had two goals Sunday, snapping a 16-game goalless drought.
“I need now to show my best game,” Hertl said after Sunday’s win. “These guys miss it and I’ve been trying. I think it was a very good game for me finally tonight.
“I need to forget about the last couple weeks and look forward. Everything starts from zero with the playoffs. I’ve already played playoff hockey and I know how hard it is and I need to be ready for this.”
Hertl has found some chemistry in recent games with wingers Jannik Hansen and Mikkel Boedker, who will likely now form the second line.
Hansen now has two goals and three assists in his last four games and has worked well with Boedker, who had spent a good chunk of his first season with the Sharks on a line with Patrick Marleau and Couture.
Hertl missed just over two months with a right knee sprain and had just one assist in 15 games before Sunday. But perhaps this is a line coach Pete DeBoer can keep together as the Sharks deal with two potentially heavy losses.
“It’s tough,” Hertl said. “For me, I expect some goals and sometimes you’re trying so hard and everything goes wrong and it’s just minuses. But I like our line the last four games.”
As of early Monday afternoon, there were no further updates on Thornton, who appeared to suffer a left leg injury in the first period of Sunday’s game.
Thornton was due to be reexamined Monday in San Jose and the Sharks might provide an update later in the day depending on the severity of the injury.
The last time the Sharks played without Thornton was in January 2015, when he was out with a shoulder injury and missed four games.
The Sharks went 2-2 in those games, which included a pair of 7-2 losses to St. Louis. Couture had a goal and four assists, Joe Pavelski had two goals and three assists, Brent Burns had a goal and five assists and Melker Karlsson scored a goal in each of the four games.
Still, whenever the Sharks have been without Thornton, it’s only been for a short amount of time.
Goals must be always. :-)) #SJSharks pic.twitter.com/C1TyqYbFu5
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) April 2, 2017
“Just with everybody,” Pavelski said when asked how the Sharks might be able to absorb another huge loss. “With everyone sticking together, doing their job, not trying to do too much.
“Really understanding that it doesn’t matter who you have, you’ve got to win with a little defense. You’ve got find some goals throughout a night. Look to keep improving in certain areas and everyone will keep picking it up.”
Hansen’s only been with the Sharks for a month but has already realized what a heart-and-soul player Thornton is to the franchise.
“He’s a leader, emotionally and on the ice,” Hansen said of Thornton. “He’s a guy that kind of gets everything in line and you follow around and follow after. It’s impossible to fill those shoes. It’s something as a group, collectively, you have to do. Everybody else has to pick up a little bit of slack.
“It’s not one player to step in and do it. I don’t know what happened. Hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later.”