SAN JOSE -- The extended wait for Raffi Torres's return to the Sharks lineup will extend into the final week of the regular season.
Todd McLellan said Friday that Torres would not play Saturday night against the Nashville Predators. The Sharks coach reiterated the overall goal for the forward who missed the first 59 games of the season recovering from knee surgery, then saw action in five of the next six before soreness set in that has caused him to miss the past 13.
"The ultimate goal is to have him 100 percent ready to go for playoffs," McLellan said. "We'll take it day by day. But now, after tomorrow we're looking at a three-day rest and practice period. We'll see where we're at next week."
The first game after that three-day break could loom as a big one with San Jose facing the Anaheim Ducks, the rugged team they are trying to overtake for the Pacific Division title. Would that be a less-than-ideal time for Torres's first game since March 8?
"I think that would be a good first game if we were going to play him," McLellan said. "Raffi's proven earlier that he can come back and play and play well. We want him in our lineup, and as soon as he's capable of playing without reinjuring and maintaining that, he's going to play, and it doesn't matter who we're playing."
McLellan kept most of his players off the ice Friday, balancing the need for rest with the need for practice. Torres and another injured forward, rookie Tomas Hertl, skated.
"A little more physical stuff for both of them, which is a good sign," said McLellan, who once again said there was no timetable for Hertl's return after the knee surgery resulting from a Dec. 19 hit.
Hertl did say he was "pushing a little harder every day."
"I felt pretty good since the Olympic break, but two games back to back, giving up a couple too many goals," said Niemi, who gave up four goals in both a loss to the Winnipeg Jets and a win over the Edmonton Oilers. "So it was big comeback for me, too.
He said that a hard, physical game like the one Thursday rubs off on the goalie, too, even in a noncontact setting.
"Both teams played a good d-zone and didn't give up too much. Hard game, big tackles," Niemi said. "It's easy to get into a game like that when everybody is really ready."
The win was Niemi's 38th of the season, second best in the NHL and one fewer than Colorado Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov.
"I think that was a tough game to get a real true evaluation. They had played three games in four nights, they played the night with basically five defensemen -- without their top one," he said, a reference to the injury that forced Kings blueliner Drew Doughty to leave the game after a hit at 8:25 of the first period.
McLellan also noted that the Kings played backup goalie Martin Jones instead of Jonathan Quick, who limited San Jose to five even-strength goals in last year's seven-game playoff series.
"Not that Jones is weak by any means," the Sharks coach said, "but if we do play them (in the postseason), I'm sure they'll have Jonathan Quick in."
Nashville (34-32-11) at Sharks (49-20-9), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA