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Sharks' Hertl excited to face idol Jagr

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- While growing up in the Czech Republic, San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl had a poster of his countryman and hockey idol Jaromir Jagr on his bedroom wall.

Hertl, who turned 20 on Nov. 12, played two games against Jagr in the Czech Extraliga last year during the NHL lockout. But he'll face the 41-year-old Jagr for the first time in the NHL on Saturday night when the Sharks face the New Jersey Devils.

"I'm very excited," Hertl said after the Sharks morning skate at SAP Center. "He's a very, very strong guy."

Hertl said he's never talked to Jagr, but Jagr is well aware of the rookie after facing him twice during the lockout and following his fast start in the NHL.

"He's a good player, no question about it, for the age he is," Jagr said of Hertl, who has a team-high 12 goals. "There's a lot of guys in Europe who've got a lot of talent, but when they come here in the U.S. they might have a tough time because they don't know how to play on the boards and in the corners. That's not his problem. He was playing that kind of style in Europe. You knew it was just a matter of time of when he was going to be good in the NHL. Some guys they have a problem. They come in the League, the rink is smaller. And his advantage is he was playing at the arena where there was smaller ice. He didn't have to get used to it. That's the only arena [in the Czech Republic] that has small ice. They did it for the NHL games and they kind of liked it so they kept it."

While growing up, Hertl would watch highlights on television of Jagr's NHL exploits and an occasional game during the playoffs. He emulated Jagr's style of play, using his big body to protect the puck and also to get to the net.

"He's playing a similar style," Jagr said. "I like to play on the boards. I like to play in the corners. He's got a lot of skill and he's showing it. He's playing with Joe [Thornton]. He can learn a lot from him. I love Joe, the way he plays.

"Like I had Mario [Lemieux], he has Joe. And Joe likes to protect the puck too. He has a long reach, a long stick. It's going to help him."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said this will be a "real special night" for Hertl facing Jagr.

"When you get to play against your idol or somebody that you've tried to emulate or grew up watching time and time again, a national hero, I think that's a real special night," McLellan said. "So Tomas will play tonight. I'm sure he'll get even a chance to play against him. It's one of the many memories I hope that he's able to bank throughout a real long career, and maybe one day there will be a young Czech player that's talking about playing against Tomas Hertl as well."

Hertl and the Sharks will be facing another hockey icon in 41-year-old goaltender Martin Brodeur, who'll be in net after backing up Cory Schneider on Thursday during the Devils' 2-1 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Kings. Brodeur is 7-3-2 with a 2.06 goals-against average.

"Obviously when you think of New Jersey, you think of Marty Brodeur," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "It will be fun to play against someone I grew up watching for a lot of years."

The Devils have had back-to-back OT wins against the Anaheim Ducks and the Kings in the first two games of their three-game road trip, but coach Peter DeBoer shuffled his second and third lines to face the Sharks.

Forwards Damien Brunner and Jacob Josefson, who were healthy scratches against Los Angeles, are back in the lineup, replacing Mattias Tedenby and Andrei Loktionov. Brunner will skate on the second line with Steve Bernier and center Patrik Elias, who was a wing the past two games. Josefson will be on the third line with Michael Ryder and center Adam Henrique.

"We're going to put in some fresh legs," DeBoer said. "For me right now, [22] games in, we've got six or seven guys that are interchangeable. We're looking for people to separate themselves from the group, and until they do that we're going to keep shuffling around."

Putting Elias at center was a move DeBoer made specifically for the Sharks, who boast three quality centers in Thornton, Couture and Joe Pavelski.

"I think when you look at the strength of San Jose up the middle, we have to try to counter that and we wanted a veteran presence in the middle of the ice," DeBoer said. "I like Elias in the middle. Whether this turns into long term or not, we'll see."

Based on the morning skate, McLellan will juggle his fourth line, replacing center Andrew Desjardins with John McCarthy, who has played primarily on the wing. McCarthy skated with James Sheppard and Mike Brown.

"It's a little bit of an adjustment from the wing, but it's something that I've done before," McCarthy said. "I played a lot [of center] in the minors and college. It's a little bit different, but I'm looking forward to it."

Here are the projected lineups for New Jersey and San Jose:


Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Tyler Kennedy - Joe Pavelski - Martin Havlat

James Sheppard - John McCarthy - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Scott Hannan - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Injured: Raffi Torres (knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery)

Scratched: Matt Irwin, Matthew Nieto, Andrew Desjardins


Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Damien Brunner - Patrik Elias - Steve Bernier

Jacob Josefson - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Cam Janssen

Andy Greene - Marek Zidlicky

Eric Gelinas - Adam Larsson

Peter Harrold - Mark Fayne

Martin Brodeur

Cory Schneider

Injured: Anton Volchenkov (leg), Ryane Clowe (head), Bryce Salvador (foot)

Scratched: Andrei Loktionov, Mattias Tedenby

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