The long-awaited return of center Tomas Hertl has a chance to bring the San Jose Sharks' secondary scoring back to life.
Hertl (C/LW, 37 percent owned in Yahoo) is expected to be in the lineup against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, SNW) after missing 32 games because of a knee injury. This will be Hertl's first game since Nov. 17.
The 23-year-old has nine points, two on the power play, and 39 shots on goal in 17 games this season, and is available in nearly two thirds of all Yahoo leagues at the moment. He has played on the left side of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski in the past, but is more likely to slot into the third-line center role and get at least second power-play usage.
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The Sharks are in great shape despite not having Hertl for most of the season. Entering their final game before the 2017 NHL All-Star break, the Sharks lead the Pacific Division with 64 points and have a strong chance to defend their standing as Western Conference champions.
Video: CBJ@SJS: Hertl taps in rebound for PPG
That said, the Sharks' lack of offensive depth has been a glaring issue. They are in the middle of the pack in goals per game (2.69, 16th in NHL) and have not been nearly as effective on the power play (17.0, 22nd) as last season (22.5, 3rd).
Much of their offense has run through elite defenseman Brent Burns (51 points in 49 games) and their top forwards, Pavelski and Thornton. But even Thornton, who has 28 assists and 13 PPP, has been held to three goals (all empty-net goals). Patrick Marleau, who has played on the top line of late, has taken off with five goals in his past two games, but has had an underwhelming fantasy season by his standards.
After Pavelski (42 points, second among Sharks), there is a 10-point drop off to Logan Couture (32, third). Thornton (31) and Marleau (25) round out San Jose's top five scorers before another gap to Joel Ward (18, sixth). Forwards Mikkel Boedker (16 points in 48 games) and Joonas Donskoi (15 in 44) have fallen way short of preseason sleeper expectations.
Video: SJS@PIT: Hertl buries a rebound to open scoring
In terms of goal scoring, the drop off is even more glaring. Burns leads the Sharks with 21 goals, followed by Marleau (17), Pavelski (16) and Couture (16). The Sharks' fifth-leading goal scorer is rookie Kevin Labanc (seven). The hope is that Hertl's presence in their top-nine forward group can get the offense back to where it was during their run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
Hertl had NHL career highs in every standard fantasy category last season with 21 goals, 25 assists, a plus-16, 26 penalty minutes, seven PPP and 202 SOG, finishing 117th in Yahoo's performance-based rankings. In leagues that count hits, he brings added value with 261 in 217 NHL games.