SAN JOSE -- Normally, Todd McLellan tends to keep his lines intact as long as the Sharks keep winning. He also prefers to use Joe Pavelski at center to increase scoring depth.
But with the knee injury to Tomas Hertl, these are hardly normal times.
So even though the Sharks have shootout victories in each of their past three games, McLellan is juggling his forwards with his team about to play its next two games against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks. And Pavelski is staying at left wing.
At Saturday's practice, McLellan moved Matt Nieto up to the second line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, while Tommy Wingels skated on a third line with Tyler Kennedy and James Sheppard.
Meanwhile, Pavelski stayed in Hertl's slot alongside Joe Thornton and Brent Burns -- a line that has produced five goals in the past three games. That's offset by the fact McLellan doesn't have the balance he likes with Pavelski as a third-line center.
"I really like our club when we're three deep down the middle," McLellan said. "I think it's obvious -- the playoffs last year, the stretch to finish the season, the beginning of the year -- that that's the best-case scenario for us when everybody's healthy."
But with the Sharks now missing four injured forwards, he added, "you have to make do with what you have. And we're trying to find ways to win games, one at a time, night after night."
After the Sharks' 4-3 win Friday at Phoenix, McLellan said he liked the offensive production of his top two lines and the play of his fourth line of Sheppard, Andrew Desjardins and Mike Brown as well. In contrast, Nieto, John McCarthy and Kennedy formed a third line that was on the ice for two Phoenix goals and spent much of the third period on the bench.
McLellan stopped short of saying that Saturday's lines would be in place for Sunday's game at SAP Center but made it clear that until he finds four lines he's comfortable with, "we're going to keep them moving around."
Nieto struggled against Phoenix, and his turnover led to the Coyotes' first goal. But McLellan wants to see if Nieto might be a better fit with Couture and Marleau. And Nieto welcomed the chance if it comes.
"Obviously I'll try to make the most of it. It's a good opportunity for myself. I'll work hard and try to support those guys," he said.
Hertl will undergo surgery to repair a right knee injured by a hit from Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown, and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said medical opinions are still being collected before the procedure.
Only after the operation, Wilson added, will he know when Hertl will be able to return. And he again did not rule out the possibility Hertl could miss the rest of the season.
That information also could determine whether Wilson turns to a trade for roster reinforcements.
As for now, he said, "you explore everything, but it's also an opportunity for some of your own people to take an advanced role."
Because Anaheim will be playing the second half of back-to-back games, onetime Shark Teemu Selanne will not appear in San Jose in what is likely to be his farewell season. The Ducks' first appearance here was under similar circumstances and, at 43, Selanne is not playing in those games.
Anaheim (28-7-5) at Sharks (24-8-6), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA