Raffi Torres is making progress but it’s still unclear whether he’ll play for the Sharks in their playoff opener Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings. Torres missed all but five games during the regular season after undergoing surgery on Sept. 26 to repair a torn ligament in his right knee. The Sharks forward missed the first 59 regular-season games and returned to play the next five of six before sitting out the final 17.
Torres said he probably won’t know until game day whether he’ll be in the lineup for the Sharks when the first-round series opens in San Jose.
“Today was a better day,” Torres said after practice Tuesday. “I feel like we’re getting on the right track. So I feel good about that. It will probably be Thursday when we make a decision, but today was a better day for sure.”
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Torres “looked really good.”
“He looked fresh and alert and looked like he was Raff, the way he’s supposed to look,” McLellan said.
Torres was injured on Sept. 20 in a collision with Anaheim Ducks forward Emerson Etem during an exhibition game. He underwent surgery six days later.
After the NHL’s break for the Sochi Olympics, Torres made his season debut on Feb. 28 against the Philadelphia Flyers and scored two goals in a 7-3 victory. He took the next game off then played four straight games, scoring a goal and recording two assists during that stretch as the Sharks beat New Jersey, lost to Carolina then beat Pittsburgh and Montreal.
Torres appeared to have made a successful recovery from knee surgery, but that Montreal game on March 8 turned out to be his last regular-season appearance.
“I got a few bounces to go my way,” Torres said. “At the end of the day I just go by how I feel. Sometimes I feel terrible out there and score a couple goals, kind of how I did in Philly. I know physically I could be a lot better there. It was nice to contribute for five games, for sure, don’t get me wrong. I just want to be able to feel good at the end of the game.”
Last season Torres played in only the first game of the Sharks’ second-round series against Los Angeles, which they lost in seven games. He was suspended for the rest of that series for a hit to the head of Kings forward Jarret Stoll. That marked the fourth career suspension for Torres.
If he does play against Los Angeles, Torres plans to play his typical aggressive, hard-hitting game, but he knows there’s a line he can’t cross.
“I understand that I’ve got a little bit more of a target on my back,” said Torres, who signed a three-year, $6 million contract extension in June. “I’ll have to be careful out there, for sure.”
Losing Torres after Game 1 against the Kings last season was a huge blow to the Sharks, who had swept Vancouver in the first round. Getting Torres back to face the Kings this year would provide a big boost, Sharks center Logan Couture said.
“I don’t know if he is going to (play), but he’d bring energy,” Couture said. “His style of game, he’s hard on the forecheck. He creates momentum for our team. The crowd enjoys when he’s on the ice. Hopefully, we’ll get him back.”