SAN JOSE – Tomas Hertl took an ever-so-slight stride towards returning to the Sharks lineup on Tuesday morning, but neither he nor the team is offering a potential date for him to play.
The 23-year-old center, who underwent a surgical procedure on Nov. 22 on his right knee, skated lightly for the first time by himself. It wasn't anything intense, and came under the watchful eyes of some members of the team's training staff, but it was a positive development, nonetheless.
Hertl, who has been riding the stationary bike and doing squats in recent days, spent approximately 15 minutes on the ice.
"Finally after a couple weeks, it feels nice," said Hertl, who has nine points (4g, 5a) in 17 games. "But, it's just [the] first steps. I feel pretty good."
Pete DeBoer said: "Making real good progress. Nothing but positives. Nothing on the horizon here, but another good step here today."
Hertl was hurt during a game with St. Louis on Nov. 17 on what looked like a fairly innocent collision with the Blues' Jori Lehtera, resulting a right knee sprain.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in November that Hertl underwent a "minor procedure" designed to prevent further injuries from occurring on what has been a problematic right knee. In his rookie year of 2013, Hertl collided with the Kings' Dustin Brown, tearing the PCL and MCL ligaments in the knee, and in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final last June it was a hit by the Penguins' Patric Hornqvist that ended his series prematurely.
Hertl admitted that the Lehtera hit "wasn't a big hit like the first one, or even the second one was a big hit," presumably referring to the Brown and Hornqvist incidents.
"We just [want to] prevent something for next time, [so we did a] small surgery," he said. "It's no guarantee, but it hopefully helps."
Hertl missed the World Cup of Hockey in September to make sure that his right knee had fully recovered from the Stanley Cup Final injury. He said Tuesday morning that he was 100 percent when the regular season began.
"I was playing good, I felt nice, got a lot of ice time, played almost [every situation]," he said. "My knee was even stronger [than] the season before. But, this happened, and I don't know why, but everything was alright."
The center doesn't want to put a date on his return to game action, when asked if he would likely be back before the All-Star break at the end of January, or after.
"We're not really talking [about that]. I don't even know," he said. "Everything has to be good, and I [have to] feel ready to go. We don't say after or before [the All-Star break] or how long it will take. … I want to be 100 percent back, and ready to go."