SAN JOSE -- Growing up in Prague, Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl had a poster of Jaromir Jagr on the bedroom wall.

Saturday night, Hertl will face his childhood hero on the ice as the suddenly successful New Jersey Devils arrive on a 6-1-1 roll with Jagr as their leading scorer with nine goals and 18 points.

At 41, Jagr is more than twice as old as Hertl, who turned 20 last week and said through a translator after Friday's practice that he has tried to pattern his style of play after Jagr's.

"I like that Jagr was always in the corner, then getting in front of the net and shooting," Hertl said. "That's what I'm trying to do."

In their native Czech Republic, there already have been comparisons between the two, but the rookie knows he has a long way to go before they are warranted. Hertl has 12 goals; Jagr has 690, more than any other European skater.

Jagr will face the Sharks 48 hours after scoring an overtime goal against the Los Angeles Kings that tied him with Gordie Howe as the all-time NHL leader with 121 game-winners. It also tied him with former linemate Mario Lemieux as the NHL's ninth-best career goal scorer.

During the NHL lockout a year ago, Jagr returned to the Czech Republic and played with Kladno, the team he left 22 years earlier. Hertl was playing for Praha Slavia in the same league and faced him twice.


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"He's very strong and a big guy. It was hard," said Hertl, adding that his team won both games.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan sees Jagr as a role model -- and not just for Hertl.

"It's actually great to see a player that has been around that long still has a passion for the game that he does. And he's got the body and the mentality to maintain it," McLellan said. "It's a great story for a lot of players that are beginning their young careers."

The Sharks will be looking to improve their record to 2-0 on this five-game homestand, the longest of the season.

  • Tommy Wingels looked to Friday's practice as a chance to continue developing chemistry with new linemates Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, but Couture said that generally happens only in games.

    "You've really got to play games to build chemistry with players, to find where they go and how they play," Couture said, who called Wingels "a smart player with a good shot" who is learning how to find open spots in recent games.

    Wingels scored two goals and Marleau added one in San Jose's 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

  • Sharks rookie Matt Nieto was a healthy scratch against Tampa Bay after going without a point in his past seven games and only one assist in his past 12.

    "We don't think any less of him because he came out of the lineup," McLellan said after sitting Nieto for the first time. "It's just part of the growth process."

    Nieto said part of his problem has been mental.

    "Ever since my hand injury, my confidence wasn't the same," he said. "I get my confidence from moving my feet so I think I have to get back to that, getting in on pucks, creating space."

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

    SATURDAY'S GAME

    New Jersey (9-8-5) at Sharks (14-3-5), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA

    GETTY IMAGES

    Jaromir Jagr, above, whose Devils face the Sharks on Saturday, was an inspiration to San Jose rookie Tomas Hertl.