SAN JOSE -- After Sharks forward Tomas Hertl had to miss 45 games last season recovering from a knee injury, any report of even a little soreness in that part of his body could be cause for concern.
But the 20-year-old forward said the tenderness in his knee that kept him out of Wednesday night's prospects game at SAP Center is nothing to worry about, just the consequence of two full practice days after staying off the ice for more than a month.
"It's not serious," said Hertl, noting that he hadn't been on the ice since he played on a line with Jaromir Jagr for the Czech Republic in the World Championships in May. "And here first time, it's just a little bit sore."
The soreness is in his right knee, the same one that was injured last December in a knee-on-knee hit involving Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown. But the decision to skip the prospects game, Hertl said, was made "just for safety."
Hertl did take part in the autograph session for season-ticket holders attending the prospects game, and the more than 8,000 people there saved their loudest cheer for a video-board shot of him behind one bench.
After the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs, Hertl skated in the World Championships, scoring three goals on a line with his hero, Jagr.
Since then, he and St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka have spent the summer training with the same conditioning coach at home in Prague. Hertl said he recognizes the need to come back stronger next season.
"Stronger in whole body and stronger my knee," he said. He added that he was also practicing his shooting "because there are still many chances scoring."
Hertl had 15 goals and 25 points in 37 games in his rookie season.
Mueller, who played in Wednesday night's game, showed up this week 12 pounds heavier than he was a year ago at 205 -- part of his effort to get stronger to compete as a first-year pro.
And he said he is well aware of Wilson's statements.
"Yeah, for sure when Doug Wilson says he trusts in younger players and he wants to build on our age group, that gives you a lot of motivation and confidence," Mueller said.