ISLANDERS (6-4-0) at SHARKS (6-4-2)
TV: NBCSN, MSG-PLUS, CSN-CA
SAN JOSE -- As a rookie last season, San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl scored six goals in his first three NHL games, including four in a highlight-reel performance against the New York Rangers.
Hertl had 15 goals and 10 assists in his first 35 games before sustaining a major knee injury on Dec. 19 against the Los Angeles Kings that sidelined until the final two regular-season games.
It hasn't gone nearly as well this season, as Hertl has two goals and three points in 12 games and Saturday against the New York Islanders he'll skate on the fourth line.
"I think Tomas is frustrated," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after San Jose's morning skate. "Any of us would be. We enter the National Hockey League and we take it by storm and there's talk of superstar and Jaromir Jagr comparisons, and that can still happen later on. Then he gets hurt and from that point on he's had to work really hard to feel good again on the ice. And it's just not happening for him right now.
"It can and will still happen. He's got some work to do practice-wise coming up this week, but he's 20 years old. There's a lot of really good rookies that, come Year Two, maybe underestimate the League a little bit. I'm not saying Tomas has done that, but the results are showing it."
Hertl said he's healthy but frustrated.
"It's a little bit tough for me because I've never before … I've never been this long of time no scoring," he said. "It's hard. I just keep working."
Hertl, the 17th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, has no goals and one assist in his past eight games.
"This season is a not a good start for me," Hertl said. "I don't know what is wrong. Before every game I'm ready. ... It's the start of the season and I'll keep working. I hope to get back to the same as last season."
Sharks coaches have made it clear that they want him to spend more time close to the net, where he scored most of his goals last season.
"I thought in Denver [against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday] he was exceptional in that area," McLellan said. "He was around the net all the time. When you go back and see how he had success last year, a lot of that came from there. In the games prior to that he was on the outside. He wasn't working to get into position. You have to get there. You have to be there to have success and Tomas has to work on that a little bit."
The Islanders, coming off a 5-0 road loss Thursday against the Avalanche, have shuffled their lines. Third-line center Brock Nelson will skate at left wing on the top line, joining center John Tavares and right wing Kyle Okposo. Nelson leads the Islanders with six goals and is tied with Tavares for the lead in points with 12.
"It's tough for me to take Brock Nelson out of the middle but we're going to give it a shot and we're going to see how it goes," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We've got to try and score a few goals. We're having a little bit of an issue offensively right now, and in this League you got to score a couple goals a night to win."
Nelson has spent time with Tavares and Okposo on the power play, which he said should help his transition.
"I kind of know their tendencies and how they like to play the game," Nelson said. "They're both highly skilled and I think it shows. Five-on-five and on the power play they make a lot of plays. Hopefully some of the success we've had on the power play carries over 5-on-5 as a line."
Defenseman Travis Hamonic will return to the New York lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury, replacing Brian Strait.
"You look at when he's in our lineup, we get a little more diversified on the back end with our options and what we can do, especially on the penalty kill, even our second-unit power play," Capuano said. "He's a leader for us, not only on the ice but obviously in the room. He's a big piece of our hockey club and it's good to get him back in there [Saturday]."
Here are the projected lineups:
Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Mikhail Grabovski - Frans Nielsen - Nikolay Kulemin
Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Anders Lee
Cory Conacher - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Scratched: Eric Boulton, Matt Donovan, Brian Strait
Injured: Josh Bailey (hand), Matt Carkner (back), Michael Grabner (lower body)
Matt Nieto - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Barclay Goodrow - Chris Tierney - James Sheppard
Tomas Hertl - Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Mirco Mueller - Brent Burns
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers
Scratched: Tye McGinn, John Scott, Matt Irwin,
Injured: Mike Brown (hand), Tyler Kennedy (upper body), Raffi Torres (knee)
Status report: Halak, who backed up Johnson against Colorado, will make his seventh start of the season. He has lost three straight. ... Niemi will start his fourth straight game. ... Goodrow, who made his NHL debut Thursday against the Minnesota Wild, was promoted from the fourth line to the third line and will be reunited with Tierney, his linemate during the preseason. ... Conacher was dropped from the top line to the fourth line.
Who's hot: Burns has three goals and four points in his past four games. ... Niemi stopped 107 of 113 shots in his past three games, all on the road. He was in goal for victories against the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado and a shootout loss against the Minnesota Wild. ... Martin leads the NHL with 48 hits. ... Nelson has two goals and four points in his past three games.