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Sharks' Hertl eager to face Czech stars on Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

SHARKS (3-0-1) at DEVILS (3-1-0)


NEWARK, N.J. -- San Jose Sharks right wing Tomas Hertl will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few of his teenage hockey idols when the Sharks play the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Saturday.

The game marks the home opener for the Devils, who began the season with four straight on the road. The Sharks are in the midst of a five-game road trip along the East Coast; they will travel to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Rangers on Sunday before closing out the trip at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

Hertl, who happens to be the only player on the Sharks active roster born in the Czech Republic, will be playing against a Devils team that could have as many as four Czech natives in the lineup: Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Marty Havlat and Marek Zidlicky. Havlat, who played a big role helping Hertl become acquainted to the NHL lifestyle as a member of the Sharks in 2013-14, is currently day-to-day with facial lacerations and his availability won't be determined until prior to puck drop.

Hertl said he has a huge poster of Jagr above his bed in his home in Praha.

"My home is all Jagr," Hertl said with a wide grin. "I like him because he's so strong and a strong skater. I strive to play the same style because I'm the same big [butt]. He's amazing and it's great to see how he plays at 42 years old. I still like the way he plays."

Hertl, who is facing the Devils for the first time in New Jersey, is unbeaten in three games against Jagr in his career. The Sharks defeated the Devils in San Jose on Nov. 23, 2013 and Hertl twice was on the winning end against Jagr when the two played against each other in the Czech league in 2012-13. Hertl starred for Slavia Praha and Jagr for Kladno during the NHL lockout.

They were also teammates for the fourth-place Czech Republic at the 2014 World Championship in Belarus.

"It's a great game for me because there are so many Czech guys for the Devils and they are all my friends," Hertl said.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan is confident Hertl will be able to harness that energy and perform well against the Devils. Hertl has two goals and a plus-4 rating in four games this season on the top line with left wing Joe Pavelski and center Joe Thornton.

"Tomas is a mature young man already; he's been around the League and has a good supporting cast in there," McLellan said. "I want him to be excited. I think that's a great thing when you can play against a guy of Jagr's caliber and be as young as you are. It's a great thing for Tomas. Hopefully, Jaromir leaves the rink talking about how Tomas' game is, and how good he will be in the future."

The Devils are 17-8-6 all-time in home openers, including 2-3-2 at Prudential Center. They lost a 4-3 shootout decision to the New York Islanders in their most recent home opener on Oct. 4, 2013.

Here are the projected lineups:


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Tomas Hertl

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto

Tommy Wingels - Chris Tierney - Tye McGinn

Adam Burish - Andrew Desjardins - Eriah Hayes

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Mirco Mueller - Brent Burns

Scott Hannan - Matt Irwin

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Jason Demers, John Scott

Injured: Tyler Kennedy (upper body), Mike Brown (IR, upper body), Raffi Torres (knee)


Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner

Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Tuomo Ruutu - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson

Injured: Marty Havlat (facial lacerations)

Status report: Devils coach Pete DeBoer will determine the status of Havlat prior to the game. If Havlat can play, he would replace Brunner on the second line. At practice on Friday, Brunner was filling in for Havlat alongside Zubrus and Elias. … The Sharks placed Brown on injured reserve and recalled Hayes, who is expected to make his season debut on the fourth line in place of Scott. … The goaltending matchup is expected to be Schneider for the Devils against Niemi.

Who's hot: Cammalleri is on a four-game point streak (four goals, two assists) to begin his career with the Devils. … The decision to have Burns back on defense this season has worked well as the 29-year-old leads the Sharks with six points (one goal, five assists).

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