SAN JOSE -- There isn’t a whole lot to be positive about these days regarding the San Jose Sharks, who are virtually assured of missing the postseason for the first time since 2002-03.
On Monday against the Stars, though, there’s at least one feel good story to be gleaned from the team’s dire situation in the standings. Bryan Lerg, a 29-year-old journeyman forward serving as the captain at AHL Worcester, will make his NHL debut.
Lerg, a Michigan native, played four years at Michigan State from 2004-08, and a combined 346 games in the American Hockey League (and a seven-game stint with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder in 2009-10) since then. He was signed by the Sharks as a free agent on July 10, 2014.
“I’ve been waiting seven years for this,” Lerg said after Monday’s morning skate. “It’s been a long, long road. The last two years I blew out both my knees, so it’s been frustrating. Didn’t get to play much hockey.”
Lerg played in just 63 combined games the last two seasons with Lake Erie, due to injuries in each of his knees. He has 13 goals and 41 points in 66 games with Worcester this season, to lead the team in scoring.
“Healthy season so far, our team is doing good down there, and just excited to be here and have this opportunity. Dream come true.”
Lerg will skate on the left wing of the team’s fourth line with Ben Smith and Mike Brown, as Tomas Hertl is the latest Sharks player to come down with an illness that has been making its way through the dressing room.
The Sharks’ affiliate has won seven straight games, and looks like its on the way to earning a playoff berth. Lerg has played a big role in that success, according to Todd McLellan.
“A guy that’s really led that team to where they are right now,” McLellan said. ”A catalyst on the ice and in the locker room. Just a dog on a bone, really, is the way they describe him. We could use that right now, and he’ll get an opportunity.”
Just like fellow recent recall defenseman Karl Stollery, Lerg doesn’t have the biggest body. He’s listed at five-foot-10, 175 pounds.
He described himself as “a small, gritty forward and I can play with skill. I play a lot bigger than my size. I know guys are probably looking at me, five-foot-nine, five-foot-10 – what’s this guy doing here? But, I play way bigger than I am.
“I’ll finish hits, I’ll go to hard areas, and use my skill and creativity, as well. I think I can use a little mix of everything.”
Lerg was unsure if his family would make it in from Michigan in time for the game, but left open the possibility they could join the team for one of its final two games in Edmonton or Los Angeles later this week, should he remain in the lineup.
That didn’t damper his excitement for later in the day, though.
“I’ve had a lot of hurdles to climb here, and ups and downs, and it’s been an exciting road,” he said. “Wouldn’t change it, though.”