Programming note: Sharks-Panthers coverage starts Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
CHICAGO -- It’s easy to forget that Tomas Hertl slowed down from the incredible start to his NHL career a little more than year ago.
Just before Hertl tore ligaments in his right knee thanks to the Kings’ Dustin Brown, the then 19-year-old had just three goals and four assists in his previous 15 games, including that unfortunate December night in Los Angeles.
Headed into last night’s game in Chicago, Hertl had exactly the same scoring output in 15 games this season, as pointed out by Todd McLellan.
“We can’t get fooled or tricked into the fabulous start that he had,” McLellan said. “He settled in and played like a rookie last year, and he’s still at that stage. I’ve banged that drum 100 times now.
“I think Tomas is getting better as the games go on. You see him more involved.”
Although Hertl’s three-game point streak came to an end against the Blackhawks, he seemed to frequently have the puck on his stick during the 5-2 loss. He recorded two shots on goal and another four attempts in 16 minutes and 25 seconds of ice time.
Coincidentally or not, Hertl’s game started to improve when he began a game on Nov. 1 against the Islanders on the fourth line. He eventually worked up to the third line by the end of the night after scoring a power play goal, and has found a temporary home on the left wing of center James Sheppard and right wing Tyler Kennedy.
“It was a message, but it was also to reset him and to restart him,” McLellan said of the demotion.
Hertl said: “Maybe it was a message. I knew I was playing bad before the game. A lot of ice time without scoring was no good for a top six forward. Now I am starting [to get] better.”
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Stars forward Antoine Roussel avoided suspension but was fined $5,376.34 for punching Justin Braun in Saturday night’s game in Dallas, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Monday.
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One player whose reputation seems to be growing league-wide is forward Tommy Wingels. The Evanston, Illinois native was a pregame topic for McLellan before Sunday’s game in Chicago.
McLellan said: “Of all our players, he’s probably made the biggest jump over the last 60 games. A bit this year, and the rest of last year.”
Wingels has five goals and four assists in 16 games, but didn’t have his best night against the Blackhawks. He finished with a -2 rating, one shot on goal, and lost track of Niklas Hjalmarsson on Chicago’s third goal.