SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl will miss at least a month and possibly longer with an injury to his right knee, general manager Doug Wilson said Saturday morning.
“There is still some swelling in the knee," Wilson said. "Preliminary report is he’ll be out at least a month, and then we’ll have some more tests that will be ongoing, and see what the extent is and go from there. That will take a little bit of time for that evaluation to take place.”
Hertl was injured Thursday in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings during a knee-on-knee collision with Kings captain Dustin Brown. Brown received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct but no supplementary discipline from the NHL.
Wilson said it's too early to tell whether Hertl's injury could be season-ending.
"Ask me in a week, or two or three," Wilson said. "I think right now the prognosis is a month but we are prepared that it could be longer. How much longer, I don’t know.”
Wilson said he doesn't know whether Hertl will have to undergo major surgery, but he said an MRI has revealed some damage. He said Hertl likely will undergo exploratory surgery at some point.
“There are a couple of different things we’re looking at," Wilson said. "I think the MRI shows something, and probably going in (surgically) at some point will probably reveal the rest. That’s probably what the process will be over the next week or so.”
Hertl, who leads NHL rookies in goals (15) and points (25), will miss a game for the first time in his career Saturday against the Dallas Stars. He ranks second on the Sharks in goals, one behind Patrick Marleau, and fifth in points.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he's not sure how well prepared his slumping team is to cope with Hertl's loss. The Sharks have lost six of their past eight games.
"We're going to find that out," McLellan said. "Where we're at right now with our game, first of all we're not playing at a high enough level to win consistently. I think that's shown in the wins and losses that we've accumulated over the past couple weeks. So the level of play for everybody has to go up. And then after that we have to find combinations that we think will work. Like coaches will say all the time, this gives others the opportunity to step up and assume more."
McLellan said he wants to see much more effort from his team.
"I just think our team doesn't compete hard enough right now," McLellan said. "We don't play hard enough in areas that you have to play hard in. When we do that we're a handful, and when we don't we're pretty darn average. There's nothing that's secretive about it, it's not about systems that we're talking about and keeping it from the other team. It's flat-out the competition level from our top player right through our 21st, 22nd, 23rd player."
The Sharks had an optional morning skate, and McLellan didn't reveal how he would adjust his lineup with the loss of Hertl, who skated with center Joe Thornton and right wing Brent Burns.
"I don't think we're talking about filling one spot because everything could look different," McLellan said.
Whatever changes McLellan makes, the Sharks will need to replace Hertl's ability to score goals.
"It's tough," Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said of losing Hertl. "Tomas is a big part of this team and has been from the get-go. Obviously his goal scoring, we're going to have to as a group in this room find a way to pick up that slack. I think we're more than capable of doing that.
"There are guys in here who can elevate their games, myself included, and find a way to score those goals we lost with Tomas not being in the lineup."
The Sharks will make a change in net with backup goaltender Alex Stalock getting his fifth career start, replacing Antti Niemi, and first at SAP Center.
"I've only played here in relief," Stalock said. "It will be fun coming out of the Sharks head and starting. So it's a first."
Stalock won his first three starts this season before taking the loss Dec. 6 when the Sharks lost 5-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes. He's 3-1-0 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
McLellan said the Sharks tend to be energized when Stalock plays.
"Al is a likeable guy. His teammates care a lot about him and he's been able to go out and provide energy for our team, not only in the games that he plays but in practice situations around the team," McLellan said. "Players have a tendency to play for him, but it's about him getting his chance to go again."
Here are the projected lineups:
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Martin Havlat - Logan Couture - Brent Burns
Tyler Kennedy - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - John McCarthy - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart - Jason Demers
Scratched: Matthew Nieto, Scott Hannan
Injured: Tomas Hertl (right knee), Raffi Torres (knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery)
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Valeri Nichushkin
Ray Whitney - Cody Eakin - Antoine Roussel
Erik Cole - Rich Peverley - Colton Sceviour
Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski - Brenden Dillon
Jordie Benn - Sergei Gonchar
Kevin Connauton - Cameron Gaunce
Scratched: Maxime Fortunus, Dustin Jeffrey, Ryan Garbutt
Injured: Stephane Robidas (broken right leg), Trevor Daley (ankle), Aaron Rome (lower body).
Fiddler is expected to be activated from injured reserve and be in the lineup after missing six games with an upper-body injury. During line rushes Saturday morning, he centered the fourth line. Garbutt, who has been battling a lower-body injury, skated and is available to play, according to Stars coach Lindy Ruff, but he did not take line rushes.