San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl (48) carries the puck against  Los Angeles Kings goalie Ben Scrivens (54) in shoot-out at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on
San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl (48) carries the puck against Los Angeles Kings goalie Ben Scrivens (54) in shoot-out at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) ( Josie Lepe )

SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, out since mid-December with ligament damage in his right knee, has received medical clearance from doctors and will play in Friday's game against the Colorado Avalanche.

Hertl skated on the third line with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels on Friday morning, and couldn't hide his excitement as he prepared to play his first NHL game in four months.

"I'm very happy, before playoff. I hope it's all good, knee is OK," Hertl said. "I hope I'm ready to play and ready to play in the playoff."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he will be conservative in how he plays Hertl as he gauges his conditioning and his timing on the ice.

"I'd like in this situation tonight to play four lines, just to roll them and make sure everybody gets an opportunity to play." McLellan said. "I'd like Tomas to experience all of the moments that he might regularly experience, whether that's a little bit of time on the power play if we happen to get a power play.

"Again, it's going to be a shift-by-shift analysis and see how he feels."

Hertl has not played since Dec. 19 in a knee-on-knee collision with Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown. Hertl had surgery Dec. 31 to repair his right posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, but has made steady progress in recent weeks as he skated with the team in practice.

Before the injury, Hertl was skating regularly on a line with captain Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. He was considered a Calder Trophy candidate for Rookie of the Year with 25 points in 35 games, and may have played for the Czech Republic at the Sochi Olympics.

"It's a great story. A lot of guys probably would have been done for the entire postseason. But Tomas worked extremely hard, he's a great kid," Thornton said. "I think all of the guys in here are very, very happy to see him back. We're really pulling for him to have a good postseason."

It wasn't lost on Hertl that the Sharks' first-round series will be against the Kings.

"It's funny because my last game was L.A. and first game (with) L.A. is very close," Hertl said. "I hope first round is win. I don't need to score. I want to just play in the first round. Now it's important."

Getting Hertl back provides a huge boost to the Sharks as they attempt to play with some consistency before the start of the playoffs. San Jose is 3-4-2 since March 22.

McLellan said Marc-Edouard Vlasic will not play Friday against Colorado. Alex Stalock will start for the Sharks in net.

For more on the Sharks, see the Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at twitter.com/CurtisPashelka.