EDMONTON – Will they or won’t they?
The question as to whether Logan Couture and Joe Thornton would be ready for Wednesday night’s playoff opener at Rogers Place wasn’t answered by anyone on the Sharks’ side, but Oilers coach Todd McLellan seemed to have a pretty good idea.
“Logan will play for sure. Jumbo, unless they cut his leg off, we’ll see him at some point in the series,” said McLellan, in his second season with the Oilers after seven in San Jose. “He’s an old school guy that will find his way into the series. I don’t know if he’ll play in Game 1, but we plan as if they’re in.”
Both Couture and Thornton skated on Wednesday, and indications remain that Couture will likely play while Thornton is more of a question mark. Couture continues to wear a full cage to protect his injured mouth, while Thornton still looks a bit tentative while dealing with what appears to be a left knee injury.
Asked how he felt, Couture, who has been out since March 25, said: “Felt great. Legs feel good. I feel rested, two-and-a-half weeks of rest. I felt pretty good this morning.”
Thornton, who was injured on April 2, said he would be “upset” if he weren’t in the lineup.
“Felt good. We’ll see tonight,” Thornton said. “You want to play. It’s the best time of year. We’re doing everything we can to play tonight.”
Pete DeBoer said the decision to play rests with Thornton alone.
“Joe is going to make that decision, and nobody else,” DeBoer said. “He’ll tell us – and it’s not just whether he can play, but can he play at a level that he can help us? He knows his body better than anybody, he knows his game better than anybody. When he’s ready to go, he’ll go, and hopefully that’s tonight.”
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It’s no secret in the Oilers’ dressing room, of course, that the Sharks’ top two centers won’t be at 100 percent even if they get into the lineup. Edmonton’s roster features some rugged players that could potentially be a little extra physical against Couture and Thornton.
Milan Lucic is one of them. This is the second straight season the power forward be facing San Jose in the first round, after the Sharks dispatched of Lucic’s Kings in the first round in 2016.
“Whether they’re healthy or not healthy, you try to be physical on guys no matter what,” said Lucic, who had a hat trick against the Sharks in the most recent meeting on April 6.
“You don’t go out of your way to hurt anyone, but you definitely want to let them know that you’re there. We’re just focused on our game and what we need to do. Just be hard on key guys, whether they’re healthy or unhealthy.”
When Lucic’s quotes were relayed to DeBoer, he said: “We’ve seen that before. We saw the same out of Milan Lucic last year in the first round against L.A. You’ve got to play through that stuff. We expect it, we’ll deal with it like we always have.”
Lucic has a history with Couture, earning a match penalty in the season opener on Oct. 7, 2015 when Couture upended him in the neutral zone and Lucic promptly charged across the ice to let Couture know he didn’t like the hit.
Does he expect Lucic, or others, to come after him a bit?
“I don’t think so,” Couture said. “The goal for any playoff team is to after the other team’s top guys, be physical. The last thing they want to do is take penalties, so I don’t think they’re going to do anything special."