Tomas Hertl, Edin Hill beat San Jose Sharks to Buffalo Sabers

After all the nervousness and hand-wringing about their performance during the first half of this road trip, the Sharks will still wake up on Friday to a happy fact.

They are still only one game out of the playoff spot.

Forward Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist and goalkeeper Edin Hill made 37 saves as the Sharks used a strong first period to beat the Buffalo Sabers 3-2 on Thursday night at the Keybank Center.

Matt Nieto and Timo Meier also scored in the first period and the Sharks improved from 2-for-3 on a penalty kill to 1-2-0 on this four-game road trip that ended Saturday in Philadelphia.

The Sharks lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday by a combined score of 14-7 to Detroit on Tuesday. Despite those crappy results, the Sharks (18-16-1) still feature in a group of four teams, including Edmonton, Winnipeg and Los Angeles, within two points of each other for the second and final wild-card playoffs. Location in the Western Conference.

“We’ve got 18 wins, and (we’re) probably where we should be,” Boffner said. “We have more than half a season to play. We talked about staying in the hunt and we are doing that.”

Hill made 21 saves in the third period for his win since December 7.

“It was good to feel a lot of rubber, a lot of shots, for the puck in the net,” Hill said. “Two points are clearly too big for the standings. Whenever you see them, they get tougher and tougher. Teams are not losing that we want to lose, so we have to keep winning.”

Since he made 24 saves in a 2-1 Sharks win over the New York Islanders on December 2, Hill had a 1-4-0 record and a .888 save percentage in six games. He allowed two goals off seven shots on Tuesday in the relief of James Reimer, who allowed four goals in 24 in the Sharks’ 6-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

“It’s huge for his confidence,” Boffner said. “Pills are just like anyone else. It’s about being confident and feeling good in the nets.”

This could be Hill’s trap for the immediate future.

Boffner said ahead of Thursday’s game that Reimer was still not 100 percent healthy as he was battling a lower body ailment.

Reamer was one of the Sharks’ top players this season until the Christmas break, as he held a 9-5-1 record with a .936 save percentage in 16 games. Since Christmas, however, Reimer is just 2-2-0 with a .830 saving percentage in four games.

Boffner said that Reimer is dealing with “some maintenance stuff, really, with his body and his game, and we want to make sure we give him a fair amount of time to feel better before he gets back in action.” .

“It is just unfortunate because (Reimer) had such a great start to the season and, like the rest of our team, there has been a slight decline. I know he will come back and we want to make sure he is close to 100 percent when he does, so give him a chance at success.

The Sharks have three goals on their roster right now and Zach Sochenko was Hill’s backup on Thursday. However, Hill will likely get a call on Saturday against the Flyers.

Hill entered Thursday with a 6-9-0 record and .897 save percentage.

“I want Hiller to be back out there and own that trap,” Boffner said.

“I look back on the way he played in Toronto on our first road trip, the way he played in Calgary (on November 9th). He was big, he was confident. His job was to make us play hockey matches.” His job is to make the necessary savings to save him, and to convince the rest of the team and have a calming effect, and that’s what I told him to do here.

The Sharks played Thursday without injured defensemen Eric Carlson and Jake Middleton, who were both hurt in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings of the Sharks.

Carlsen could return for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia, Boffner said, although returning for next Tuesday’s game at home with the Red Wings may be a better prospect. Middleton, however, was placed on injured reserve on Thursday afternoon and will be out of the lineup for at least the next two games.