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SAN JOSE – Three weeks to the day after getting slashed in the left hand, Tommy Wingels will return to the Sharks’ lineup when they host Calgary on Monday at SAP Center in a key division battle.
Wingels has missed the last seven games after undergoing a procedure on the injured hand.
“I feel good. I feel like I can play,” Wingels said. “I'll be excited to get back and try to contribute to the team."
Despite his recent time off, Wingels still leads the Sharks with 174 hits – or 71 more than Brent Burns, who is second on the team.
The Sharks have missed the reckless abandon that Wingels consistently brings, according to Todd McLellan.
“The physicality is the big thing,” said the Sharks’ coach. “He plays in straight lines. He plays through people rather than around. Sacrifices his body for his teammates a lot. … You need that type of ingredient in your lineup on a nightly basis to have success. It’s just something that’s a little bit different. And, of course, his ability to score now is a big part of his game, as well.”
Wingels was having trouble finding the scoresheet before he was hurt, with two goals and three assists in his previous 19 games. For the season, the 26-year-old has 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 47 games.
Considering his style of play, could the three weeks off be a blessing in disguise, allowing him to recover from some of the bumps and bruises?
"For sure,” Wingels said. “When you play that style, there's wear and tear on your body. You get worn down when you do it often. So, definitely, I'll take the rest. It was for a reason I didn't want it to be, but I'll take it stride and hope to make a good push here at the end of the year."
Wingels will be skating on the right side of new third line center Chris Tierney and left wing Tomas Hertl. Those two were arguably the Sharks’ best forwards in the 5-4 loss to Carolina on Saturday.
Tierney started that night as the fourth line center, but earned a promotion and has four points (1g, 3a) in the last two games. Monday will be the first time since Nov. 1 that he’s starting a game as the Sharks’ third line center, and he seems like a new player since returning from a lengthy stint in Worcester.
"Every time I come in I just try to play my game, but I feel a little more confident this time, a little stronger,” Tierney said. “Just playing more games and being able to play big minutes down in the American League, I think really helped me out. I'm just trying to keep it going."
He’s looking forward to seeing Wingels in the lineup.
"It’s huge,” Tierney said. “He plays in all situations, PK, PP and even strength. He plays really fast, really hard. So, it will be key to have him back."
In order to activate Wingels, the Sharks placed rookie forward Daniil Tarasov on injured reserve. Tarasov missed some time in the Carolina game after blocking a shot.