Programming note: Sharks-Stars coverage starts Saturday at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – It was evident early that Tyler Kennedy was more than eager to make his season debut.
The 28-year-old was flying around the ice on a third line with James Sheppard and Tomas Hertl, and his hustle in keeping the puck in the offensive zone midway through the first period led to Sheppard giving the home team a 1-0 lead.
Kennedy gathered a loose puck inside the blue line, while Hertl glided towards the slot alone and received Kennedy’s pass. Hertl found Sheppard in front of the net, and banked the puck in off of Sheppard’s skate.
“Tomas banged his stick, and I heard him,” Kennedy said. “I just kind of slid it over, and they did the rest. It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet to try and help the team win.”
Sheppard said: “TK had a lot of energy, and Tomas is ready to step his game up as well. The chemistry came pretty quick but I think it’s because we were fast, we were moving and we were driving to the net.”
The Sharks’ season-long struggle to find a consistently productive third line - they've started seven different third line combinations in the last nine games - got off to a good start in the 3-2 loss to Vancouver. The trio played together for approximately 13 minutes, and Kennedy finished with a game-high five shots on goal.
In the faceoff circle, Sheppard won seven of his 11 draws, which is an encouraging sign for a player that called that facet of his game a “constant battle” earlier in the day. Hertl looked rejuvenated, too, after the Sharks had four days off between games.
It wasn’t a perfect night, though. Hertl’s hard luck broken stick led to the game-winning goal by Nick Bonino in the second period, and Kennedy’s high-sticking penalty earlier in the middle frame resulted in Alex Edler’s game-tying power play goal.
McLellan offered his comments on the line after the game.
“I thought Tyler was very good. I thought he played with a lot of energy. He had a tenacity to him that rubbed off on the other two,” McLellan said.
“They opened the scoring and that was important for us. Unfortunately he was in the penalty box on a high-stick that he had no intent of high-sticking a player, but for the first game in a long time I thought he played well.”