SAN JOSE – As part of the Sharks’ fan appreciation festivities on Monday night, random fans were chosen as winners of each player’s game-used jersey presented at the conclusion of the game with the Stars.
Bryan Lerg, a 29-year-old journeyman forward that was recalled on Sunday night, gave his jersey away. Unfortunately for him, it was in pristine condition.
After every indication at Monday’s morning skate was that Lerg would make his NHL debut after battling his way through a pair of knee operations and more than seven years in the minors, he was pulled at the last minute. Tomas Hertl, who was sick in the morning and labeled as “extremely doubtful” for the game by Todd McLellan, was able to play, after all.
Lerg will remain in San Jose, though. He’s expected in the lineup for at least one of the final two Sharks games, which are now meaningless after the team’s official elimination on Monday. The Sharks visit Edmonton on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday to close out the season.
“Bryan Lerg is going to play, unless something dramatic happens over the next however many hours, he’s going to play in the NHL because he deserves to play,” McLellan said on Tuesday. “That’s what we brought him here for.”
McLellan explained the decision to sit Lerg while playing Hertl, or someone like Barclay Goodrow, who hasn’t done a whole lot of note in his rookie season.
“Our team was still alive, and we’re a team,” said McLellan, referring to the Sharks’ microscopic chances at making the playoffs before the Stars game began.
“We’re a team, and that’s part of being a team, is to give that group a chance. Bryan will get his chance to play. He deserves it.”
Lerg said McLellan told him before warm-ups on Monday that he might be pulled for Hertl, and that he appreciated the head coach’s honestly.
“I’m not disappointed at all with anyone here,” Lerg said. “I was obviously super excited to play and I was game-ready to go, in case I went. Todd gave me a heads up before the game, which was nice of him.
“He’s an honest coach and a fair coach. Some people probably wouldn’t have said anything and then just said ‘you’re out.’ He gave me a heads up before the game, and that was great.”
Lerg’s parents were set to meet the team in Edmonton. They wouldn’t have been able to make it to San Jose from Michigan in time for their son’s long-awaited NHL debut.
“Maybe it happened for a reason,” Lerg said. “That’s kind of how my career has gone. Just another part of my chapter.”
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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is unlikely to play in the final two games, according to McLellan. The defenseman, who has missed the last five games, was still walking with a noticeable limp on Monday.
Scott Hannan has missed the last three games and won’t play Thursday in Edmonton, but McLellan didn’t rule out the season finale for the 36-year-old veteran in what could very well be the final game of Hannan’s career.