Couture a ‘longshot’ for Sharks’ opener, creating questions about center depth

San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn said it’s unlikely Logan Couture plays the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 12 at SAP Center

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Although Logan Couture may be able to skate again in the coming days, San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn believes the team’s captain will be unable to play within a week.

“It’s probably a longshot right now,” Quinn said Thursday morning, before the Sharks play the Los Angeles Kings in their final preseason game in Salt Lake City.

Couture, 34, hasn’t skated since the start of training camp because of a lower-body injury that has kept him out of the lineup. Quinn stated that he has felt better in recent days, but that he still needs to be able to practice at full speed and improve his conditioning before he is ready to play.

The Sharks open the regular season against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. This kicks off a perilous four-game homestand against Colorado, Carolina, and Boston on Oct. 14, 17, and 19, respectively. Last season, all four of those teams won their respective divisions.

Couture could be placed on injured reserve to begin the season, forcing him to miss the Sharks’ first two games. Players on injured reserve must wait at least seven days before being activated, and the NHL’s regular season begins on Tuesday.

The deadline for NHL teams to submit their 23-man rosters to the league is Monday.

“With every passing day, it makes it more unrealistic that he will be playing opening night,” Quinn said of Couture’s performance. “However, there have been discussions in recent days about ‘Is today the day he tries to skate?'” We’ve reached the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s there on Friday.”

Following the conclusion of their homestand, the Sharks will embark on a road trip that will include games against the Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Washington Capitals. Last season, seven of the Sharks’ first nine opponents made the playoffs.

Couture has appeared in 13 consecutive season-opening games for the Sharks, dating back to his second full season in the NHL in 2010.

Without Couture, the Sharks will be led by Tomas Hertl, Mikael Granlund, Thomas Bordeleau, and Nico Sturm against the Kings on Thursday. If Couture is unable to play, the Sharks may use this lineup against the Golden Knights next Thursday.

“I like our depth,” Quinn said of the center position. “It’d be nice to have everybody healthy.”

Even in the short term, replacing Couture will be difficult. Although Hertl and Granlund have plenty of experience as top-six centers, Couture is also expected to kill penalties and play on the top power-play unit.

The Sharks’ top power play unit on Wednesday and Thursday included five forwards: Hertl, Granlund, Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, and Alexander Barabanov.

Due to Couture’s absence, Bordeleau, 21, is likely to make the Sharks’ roster out of training camp. Bordeleau, now in his second full season as a pro, is regarded as one of the Sharks’ top prospects despite having only 16 games of NHL experience.

Sturm, 28, is in his fourth NHL season and was primarily the Sharks’ third-line center last season, setting new career highs in goals (14), points (26), and average time on ice (14:44).

However, if Granlund drops down and becomes the Sharks’ third-line center once Couture returns, Sturm will likely be relegated to the fourth line and his ice time may be reduced.

“If (Quinn) puts me there, that’s where I’m going to play and try to earn my ice time,” Sturm said Thursday morning. “I’m not going to lie to you. Obviously, I want to play at a higher level. It’s not a surprise. But I’m a team player, so I’ll play wherever the coach places me and try to earn those extra minutes through the (penalty kill).

“It helps me that I think of myself as the kind of player that maybe points won’t come as frequently but I think I do a lot of other things well that can help the team: win my faceoffs, play big minutes on the penalty kill and when a chance comes to play higher up in the lineup, I think I can do that.”

Quinn is well aware of what Sturm brings to the Sharks.

“He just represents so much of what you want in your organization from a work ethic standpoint,” she said. “He’s a true professional who can be coached.” He represents everything you want in a player. I’m not afraid to use him in any circumstance, and he knows it.

“He played a lot of hockey last year, probably more than he ever has.” and I know he’s going to play a lot more this year.”

NOTABLE: Defenseman Radim Simek (lower body) did not skate Thursday and is listed as day-to-day. Simek was hurt during the Sharks’ preseason game in Anaheim on September 27. Leon Gawanke, a defenseman, has been assigned to the Barracuda of the American Hockey League.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply