San Jose has dropped four of their past five games and find the gap between them and the division-leading Los Angeles Kings widening, but the Sharks got some good news Monday evening that could get them right back into the race for the Pacific Division title.
The Sharks announced that centerLogan Couture, who has been sidelined nearly two months with a fractured fibula, has officially been removed from the IR and could be made available for Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. Couture, 26, has missed all but three games this season and left a significant hole on the Sharks’ top line. While it may take a few games for Couture to get reacclimatized to game action, his return should give San Jose an immediate boost.
“I’ve been dying to get back in for the last little while,” Couture told SJSharks.com. “It’s not easy watching, just practicing. Today was a good day, just to be out there with the guys on a regular line and feel like you’re part of the team again. I felt like myself finally.”
Before hitting the sidelines, Couture had notched just one assist in three games. He suffered the broken leg on a freak accident as the Sharks were practicing prior to their fourth game of the season against the New Jersey Devils. Initially, Couture was supposed to miss four-to-six weeks, but his return this week makes for an absence of slightly more than seven weeks.
Over the past five seasons, Couture has been one of the most prolific players for the Sharks. He has been a 20-goal scorer in each of the past five seasons, and his 134 goals since 2010-11 rank third of all Sharks. He has also managed 279 points in the past five seasons, ranking him fourth on the club behind Joe Thornton (328), Joe Pavelski (307) and Patrick Marleau (295).
Couture’s contributions to the Sharks lineup go beyond his offensive ability, though. He has been both a penalty killer and a fixture on San Jose’s power play, and it was clear how much the Sharks were missing Couture on special teams this season. Through 26 games, San Jose has the 18th ranked power play and are operating at 18.2 percent, while the penalty kill is ranked 15th at 80.7 percent. However, with Couture coming off an injury and not having played in nearly two months, even he admitted he won’t be out there in all situations quite yet.
“I’m a competitive person and I want to play every shift, but that’s not going to happen,” Couture said. “It’s up to the coaching staff, and I’m just going to go out there when they tell me to. If they don’t want me to play 20 minutes then I’m not going to. If they want me to, I’ll give it my all.”
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t say whether or not Couture is in the lineup, even though he skated with Marleau and Joel Ward ahead of Tuesday’s game.
“The good news is he is available to us,” DeBoer said. “And then we’ll decide where and when he’s going to play.”