Sharks

Couture playing through pain, giving Sharks emotional lift

Couture playing through pain, giving Sharks emotional lift

EDMONTON – There are always doctors and dentists on duty at NHL games. These days, they are likely paying a little more attention to one player than any other.

Logan Couture revealed after Tuesday’s 7-0 Sharks in in Game 4 that after getting hit up high by Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, he had to get a little procedure done between periods.

“They just had to put some numbing into my face,” he said. “Got hit in teeth again. The dentist put some numbing in, and felt good the rest of the game.”
 
Couture ditched the full cage that he was wearing prior to Game 3, saying that if he were to take another puck to the mouth like he did on March 25 in Nashville, he’d probably be the “unluckiest guy in the world.”

While that may be true, the exposed lower half of his face is still susceptible to errant sticks, elbows or fists, as Game 4 showed. The Oilers seem to be targeting Couture, too, including a high hit from Eric Gryba in Game 1 and another by Zack Kassian in Game 2.

Still, Couture motors on, and in Game 4 he was arguably the Sharks’ best player as he posted his first playoff points – a pair of goals – in San Jose’s win. All the while, the hardware in his mouth is visible, as he has what is called an arch bar keeping his bottom teeth from falling out and some plastic bonding keeping the remaining top ones in place.

Every NHL player that’s fortunate enough to still be playing in the postseason is dealing with bumps and bruises, but Couture’s willingness to play through the kind of injury that he suffered – as well as the dental work that’s in his future, as at least half a dozen of his teeth will get replaced – seems especially fearless, even by NHL player standards.

His teammates have noticed.

“It definitely gives you an extra jolt on the ice, seeing him [and Joe Thornton], guys battling through injuries, guys coming back from painful situations and giving 100 percent out on the ice and just giving it all – it’s really inspiring,” Chris Tierney said. “It gives a lot of jump to us, and gives the team a lot of energy.”

Joel Ward said: “For him to come back like that, obviously he’s a warrior. For him not to just be there but contribute as much as he has, key minutes – he’s a talented dude. The guys love him, just excited for him to be back. He definitely gives us a big lift.”

It’s a positive sign for the Sharks, too, that Couture seems to be improving with each game. Had the Sharks managed to beat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final last June, Couture likely would have been the Conn Smythe Award winner for playoff MVP, posting a league-leading 30 points in 24 games. That’s the Couture they need on the ice if they’re going to make a run.

For now, Couture can continue giving the Sharks an emotional boost as he continues to improve physically.

Pete DeBoer said: “When you see your best players with that type of commitment level – refusing to use injuries as an excuse, the behind the scenes stuff and what they’re going through getting prepared to play and help us – obviously, that’s motivating.”

Erik Karlsson relieved to score but focused on winning with Sharks

Erik Karlsson relieved to score but focused on winning with Sharks

SAN JOSE — Scoring your first goal of the season certainly is cause for celebration. Maybe even some extra-exuberant cheering and shouting. 

After defenseman Erik Karlsson scored his first goal as a Shark in their 4-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, there were rumors he’d let some choice language fly.

“I don’t know if I said it in Swedish or English,” he jokingly told the media after the game at SAP Center. “If I said it in English, unfortunately it might be out there. If not, then you’re going to have to play the guessing game.”

Not that anyone could blame him for using some colorful verbiage. The pressure on the Swedish defenseman has been incredibly high since he arrived in San Jose at the start of training camp in September.

While he’s been contributing to the team on the back end during the Sharks' six-game homestand, Karlsson’s continued lack of goal production had his critics whipped into a frenzy. 

Finally notching that elusive goal helped put his entire body of work thus far into perspective.

“He’s been playing some really good hockey, and he’s been really solid for us lately,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. 

“It’s nice to see one go in here for him tonight,” forward Joe Pavelski complimented. “He wants to contribute. He has, in a lot of ways, just maybe not in the goal department.”

Karlsson has been pitching in as a helper on San Jose’s goals over the homestand, including in the second period of Saturday’s game when he set up Evander Kane’s tally to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead. He’s now riding a three-game assist streak with five points (one goal, four assists) in his last three games.

“I’ve been feeling good all year. It just hasn’t worked out on the score sheet,” Karlsson said. “But sometimes, that’s the way it is.”

The defenseman admitted he felt a sense of relief after he notched that first goal on the season, but he also emphasized he’s more concerned with how it helped the Sharks get a bounce-back victory over the Blues. 

“I think the win was extra good after the game against (the Toronto Maple Leafs),” Karlsson said. “I don’t think we played well there. To have this game tonight was important for us, and it shows character in the room.”

Now with that first goal out of the way, Karlsson’s critics perhaps can leave him to focus on helping his team win more games.

“I’m not here to play an individual game,” he summarized. “It’s nice to finally get one in the back of the net. But at the end of the day, this is a great win.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-0 shutout win over Blues

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-0 shutout win over Blues

SAN JOSE -– After being shut out 4-0 by Chad Johnson and the St. Louis Blues just eight days ago, the Sharks were looking for payback.

Boy, did they get it Saturday night. 

Fueled by Erik Karlsson’s first goal as a member of the Sharks, San Jose got back to its roots and put up an all-around defensive effort to pummel the Blues by a score of -– drumroll, please -– 4-0. 

Here are three takeaways from the game at SAP Center:

Karlsson’s big night

It took 21 games — and, as one fan on Twitter pointed out, exactly 65 days since he was acquired from Ottawa — but the two-time Norris Trophy winner finally found the back of the net.

Of course he also did it in epic fashion, banging home a one-timer that Johnson didn’t even see coming. You could see the relief on Karlsson’s face as the cameras zoomed in on him after the goal.

With that elusive first marker out of the way, it doesn’t hurt to wonder if that goal will open the floodgates. Karlsson’s individual game has visibly improved over the Sharks’ current six-game homestand, Saturday was his second consecutive game with two points, and his third n a row with at least one. 

Dell was a brick wall

Aaron Dell wasn’t tested as much this time around as he was against the Blues eight days ago. Nevertheless, the Sharks’ backup goalie made the big saves when he needed to on his way to registering his first career win against St. Louis.

Dell was particularly impressive in the third period. He stood tall to stop Vladimir Tarasenko from putting the Blues on the board just 10 seconds into the frame, and continued to stand his ground as St. Louis built momentum and tried to pin San Jose in its own end.

Identity found?

Following the Sharks’ 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, captain Joe Pavelski told the media the team wasn’t playing up to its identity as a defensively sound unit. Against the Blues, the Sharks’ sound defensive game was on full display.

It also didn’t hurt that multiple players had multi-point games in addition to Karlsson. Pavelski himself scored two goals, giving him 13 in 21 games, good for fourth in the NHL. New linemate Logan Couture assisted on three of San Jose’s four goals, including both of Pavelski’s. Timo Meier also pitched in as a helper on both of Pavelski’s goals.