Programming note: Devils-Sharks coverage starts tonight at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live (territory restrictions apply)
SAN JOSE – Even before the Flames game on Saturday, Todd McLellan wanted to get Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton back together at some point. That happened to start the second period, and the new line combinations seemed to spark the team in its eventual 4-3 overtime loss.
The Sharks top two lines remain the same against New Jersey, with impressive rookie Melker Karlsson on the left side of Thornton. Tommy Wingels, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture are also back together to start a game for the first time since Jan. 3.
[RELATED: Sharks' Couture toughs it out against Flames]
"I think these are kind of the lines that found their way after the first period last game, where we had more energy,” Wingels said.
On the third line, Matt Nieto has replaced Tye McGinn. Tomas Hertl remains as the center there between Nieto and Tyler Kennedy.
“Tomas has given us three pretty good games through the middle,” McLellan said. “One that really likes to shoot the puck in [Kennedy], and [Nieto] has speed and can take it to the net.
“We’ll give them the opportunity to play and see what we get out of them.”
The Sharks head coach still believes Hertl has more to give, but again mentioned a summer injury that Hertl had to deal with when he tweaked his surgically repaired injured right knee while playing in the World Championships for the Czech Republic. That adversely affected his summer training.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like missing the amount of workout time that Tomas did, and then have to come back and play at the NHL level,” McLellan said. “He’s committed himself to doing it. It just takes some time, and the league knows the Hertl name now. It didn’t know the Hertl name early in the season last year.”
Nieto has one assist in 10 games since returning from an ankle injury. He seemed excited to get a chance with fellow sophomore Hertl, and Kennedy, who has been effective in the last three games since returning from a shoulder injury including a goal last Thursday against Toronto.
“We’re more offensive guys who like to make plays, and you can look for that tonight,” Nieto said. “Me and TK like to skate, like to forecheck. Hertl likes to own the puck, so it’s a good mixture and I think we’ll be fine.”
The Sharks have yet to find a consistently strong third line. James Sheppard, the previous third line center who has one goal in his last 31 games, will now center the fourth line with McGinn and Andrew Desjardins as his wingers.
Desjardins will be playing for the first time since he left the team on Jan. 13 to witness the birth of his son. Barclay Goodrow will be scratched after suiting up for the previous 19 games.