NEWS
06/04/2016 10:19 EDT | Updated 06/05/2017 01:12 EDT

Sharks without injured Hertl for critical Game 3; Karlsson or Zubrus to fill in

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tomas Hertl will not play for the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

Hertl did not practise Friday morning because of a lower-body injury and will be unavailable to play on Saturday evening, according to Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer.

"Next man up for us," said DeBoer. "Injuries are no excuse this time of year. We have somebody that will go in for him, will roll out there and be ready to play."

DeBoer called Hertl perhaps the Sharks best player through the first two games of the final, which sees San Jose down 2-0 ahead of the first Stanley Cup final home game in team history.

The 22-year-old fills the left side of the Sharks top line, a big, strong effective force alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Hertl had two shots in more than 20 minutes in a Game 2 overtime loss and has six goals and 11 points in the post-season. He had a career-high 21 goals and 46 points during the regular season.

"It's tough to miss a guy like that if you have to," Pavelski said. "But somebody steps in. We've done it. We've done it for a while."

Hertl is likely to be replaced on the Sharks first unit by either 25-year-old Melker Karlsson or veteran Dainius Zubrus, both of whom have spent time with Thornton and Pavelski before.

Karlsson spent Friday's practice alongside the Sharks top duo. Zubrus, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch in Game 2.

"I know how to play (with them) if that's the case, if I'm going in there, because I've played with them before," Karlsson said after practice Friday. "I'm ready to go if that's the case."

Hertl may have been injured on a hit from Patric Hornqvist at the mid-point of the third period in Game 2. He remained in the game, however, right up until the final moments of overtime, but did not practise Friday, skating only in a tracksuit beforehand.

The Sharks will look to take advantage of home-ice after dropping the first two games of the series in Pittsburgh, both by a goal. San Jose is 7-2 at the SAP Center in the playoffs after posting a so-so 18-20-3 mark during the regular season.

Saturday marks the first Stanley Cup final home in the history of the franchise, which began play in 1991.

"You can feel the buzz," Sharks centre Logan Couture said of returning to California. "It's a great feeling."

Outshot 71-48 in the first two games, the Sharks are looking to generate more scoring chances opposite 22-year-old Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, tested infrequently thus far. They also hope to get their top-rated power-play more opportunities after gaining only one chance in Game 2 and three in the series.

"Usually it means we don't have the puck enough, we're not forcing them to defend enough, we're playing in our end too much," Couture said. "To gain power-plays you need to force the team to play in their end, to play tired, that's usually when power-plays happen. We're not doing enough in their end."

The Penguins are wary, meanwhile, of looking too far ahead with the possibility of gaining a 3-0 series advantage.

"I think everyone's aware of the situation," defenceman Ian Cole said of the prospect of inching closer to the Cup. "But I don't think that you can let that dictate how you play, can't let that dictate how you're going to approach the game because I think that once you take your foot off the gas, once you kind of exhale and say, Hey, we have a two-game lead, we only have to win two more out of the next five, that will be easy, no problem,' that's where you really get into trouble.

"I think continuing to play with the same mindset, just keep going the way you were."