MAPLE LEAFS (22-19-3) at SHARKS (23-16-5)
TV: TSN4, CSN-CA
SAN JOSE -- Tomas Hertl gave the San Jose Sharks a glimpse of what he can do at center when he filled in Tuesday on the fourth line against the Arizona Coyotes for Andrew Desjardins, who missed the game for the birth of his son, Ames.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan liked what he saw from Hertl so much that he decided to give him another shot at center.
Hertl scored a goal in San Jose's 3-2 victory against Arizona, and he'll center the fourth line between Tyler Kennedy and Jamie McGinn again Thursday at SAP Center against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Desjardins will be a healthy scratch.
"We want to take another look at Tomas there," McLellan said after the Sharks morning skate. "We thought that was one of his better skating games, and maybe that assignment at center ice made him move a little bit more. I thought Kennedy and McGinn had good games as well. So there's no need to change anything there right now. We'll give them another look and see what we get out of him tonight."
Hertl played center for most of his career in the Czech Republic before moving to wing as a rookie in the NHL last season.
"I played most of my life at center," Hertl said. "I like it because I'm more on the puck, in the middle and passing left-right, more skating the whole time."
McLellan said center could turn out to be Hertl's primary position in the NHL.
"He's got great vision and puck protection skills so he can work both corners, almost like a (Joe Thornton) in a sense where he can protect pucks because of his reach and his size. But still has a lot to learn there," McLellan said. "He's been able to break into the League as a winger, and I think that's been valuable, but as he moves forward into his career, he might be more valuable at that center ice spot. With that being said, it's a very young experiment that could change at any moment."
With Hertl at center, the Sharks had four dangerous lines against Arizona.
"I think we saw four capable lines of bringing offense as well as being pretty sound defensively," Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said. "I think we like what we saw in that respect and we'll try to play the same game and same lines tonight. When you have four lines who can contribute offensively and all over the ice, you're a pretty dangerous team. It's something I'm sure everyone's looking at, and if they can continue to do well those lines will stay intact."
McLellan said Hertl's line at times against Arizona played more like a second or third line.
"They very well could have been two or three," McLellan said. "That's a great thing for a coaching staff to have is when you get that internal pressure on the bench for lines to start sorting themselves out. It kind of forces everybody to fall into a more competitive situation, and I think that was the case the other night."
The Sharks will open a season-long seven-game homestand against Toronto, which is 1-3-0 since interim coach Peter Horachek replaced the fired Randy Carlyle. The Maple Leafs are 0-2-0 on their four-game road trip, losing 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday and 4-0 to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
Under Horachek, the Maple Leafs have stressed defense, but they've lost much of their explosiveness on offense.
"They still have a lot of skill in their lineup," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "They got a lot of game breakers, guys with speed, guys with skill. We have to be aware when they're on the ice and defend well."
Toronto didn't have a morning skate but was busy off the ice. The Maple Leafs called up forward Matt Frattin from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
Maple Leafs forward David Booth took an elbow to the face from Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen midway through the third period, knocking him out of the game. The Maple Leafs announced Booth sustained a broken nose and his availability is still being determined.
If Booth can't play, the Maple Leafs will have only 12 healthy forwards, including Frattin.
Vatanen was fined $3,393.82, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for elbowing Booth.
Here are the projected lineups:
Daniel Winnik - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Mike Santorelli
Richard Panik - Trevor Smith - David Clarkson
Matt Frattin - Sam Carrick - Troy Bodie
Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson
Morgan Rielly - Roman Polak
Jake Gardiner - Stephane Robidas
Scratched: Korbinian Holzer
Injured: Peter Holland (upper body), Joffrey Lupul (lower body), Leo Komarov (upper body), David Booth (upper body)
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Matt Nieto
Melker Karlsson - Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski
Tommy Wingels - James Sheppard - Barclay Goodrow
Tyler Kennedy - Tomas Hertl - Tye McGinn
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Matt Tennyson
Scratched: John Scott, Scott Hannan, Andrew Desjardins
Injured: Raffi Torres (knee), Mike Brown (lower body), Mirco Mueller (upper body)
Status report: Even through the Maple Leafs are playing the tail end of back-to-back games, Bernier might get another start. He allowed one goal on 19 shots against the Kings and three on 24 against the Ducks. … When the third period began against Anaheim, Horachek reunited van Riemsdyk on the top line with Bozak and Kessel. It's unclear whether they'll skate together from the outset against San Jose. … Tennyson will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch against Arizona, and he'll be paired with Irwin for the first time this season.
Who's hot: Pavelski has two goals and three points in his past four games. He leads the Sharks in goals (22), points (38) power-play goals (11) and shots (145). With three game-winning goals, he's tied with Hertl and Vlasic for the team lead. … Karlsson has five goals over his past six games. … Couture has seven points (one goal, six assists) over his past five games. … Kessel leads the Maple Leafs in points (43) and assists (19) and is tied with van Riemsdyk for the lead in goals (19).