With their season on the line, the Sharks will be without star forward Tomas Hertl on Tuesday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference final against the Blues.
Hertl took a hit to the head in the first period of the Sharks' 5-0 loss in Game 5 from Blues forward Ivan Barbashev and was nowhere to be seen in the third period of the defeat. Controversially, Barbashev didn't receive any discipline in the game or after from the league.
Establishing that Hertl's head was the main point of contact on the hit was difficult since Barbashev also connected with Hertl's arms and shoulder, a source told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski on Monday. There also was a question on whether the force of the hit was enough to warrant supplemental discipline, even if it might have been enough for a penalty in the game.
Clearly, the force was enough as Hertl is unable to play in the biggest Sharks game of the year thus far. San Jose's coach Peter DeBoer called the play "arguably a five-minute major" after the loss.
"If you get that – that's a momentum-changing play right there," DeBoer said.
Sharks center Logan Couture wasn't surprised the referees didn't call a penalty on the clear hit to the head.
"I saw the Hertl hit, I just watched the replay," Couture said after Game 5. "Yeah, that's a tough one. But they had one earlier in Game 3, I believe on [Justin] Braun, and nothing happened. So they can do it again, right?"
Not only will the Sharks be without Hertl in Game 6, but defenseman Erik Karlsson has also been ruled out with a lower-body injury. Captain Joe Pavelski is a game-time decision.