SAN JOSE -– One key piece is out again, but another is primed to make his return on Saturday when the Sharks host the Minnesota Wild.

Center Logan Couture is sidelined indefinitely after getting a procedure in his right thigh to stop what the team called a small arterial bleed, while defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic has apparently recovered from a lower body injury that forced him to miss the past three games.

After practicing on Friday, Vlasic wouldn’t confirm that he was in the lineup, only saying he was “99.9 percent.” But, coach Pete DeBoer said: “Looks like he’ll play.”

In 25 games, Vlasic has 11 points (3g, 8a) and a plus-6 rating. The Sharks are 0-2-1 since he went out, and 1-6-1 overall when missing one of their top four defensemen.

[KURZ: Couture undergoes procedure to close artery in thigh]

DeBoer also went into more detail about Couture’s latest unfortunate ailment, coming in the 26-year-old’s second game back on Wednesday in Edmonton after he had missed 23 games due to a fractured right fibula.

Couture, who left midway through the second period against the Oilers, accompanied the Sharks on their charter flight home. As time went by, it became apparent something was wrong.

“It got serious as we started to come back,” DeBoer said. “It was some slow bleeding in there, and as it pooled it became worse and more dangerous. Thankfully, our trainers recognized that and we got it taken care of.”


What were the signs?

“It was a lot of Charley-horse type symptoms. I think the red flag is he didn’t remember really getting hit hard in that area. With that type of swelling, you would normally remember getting hit like that. That was kind of the red flag that got our guys to take a look at it a little closer.”

Although he wasn’t at Sharks Ice on Friday, Couture tweeted: “It has been a very difficult 4 month stretch personally. Really just a quick thanks to everyone for the support through this, means a lot.”

DeBoer didn’t offer up any sort of timeframe for Couture’s return, but when asked about Tomas Hertl filling in for Couture, Vlasic may have offered a hint.

“Logan missed 23 games, and Hertl stepped in. He’ll be doing that for the next week or two depending on how long [Couture] is out,” Vlasic said.

DeBoer said: “It’s unfortunate for Logan. This is a guy that worked his tail off to get back. Just another fluky thing he’s dealing with, but when it rains it pours. Hopefully this will be the end of it, and we’ll have a healthy Logan Couture the second half once he gets through it.”

* * *

In other injury news, forward Matt Nieto is dealing with a lower body injury, and his status for Saturday’s game is in question. The 23-year-old was scratched on Wednesday.

Ben Smith, meanwhile, has been reassigned to the Barracuda on a conditioning stint as he takes the next step in his concussion recovery. Smith was hit in the side of the head by a Vlasic shot on Oct. 17 in Brooklyn, and has been out for the last 18 games. He’s scoreless with a -4 rating in four games.

“He’s had a tough go. It’s another step for him to get back here and get some games under his belt,” DeBoer said. “It’s unfortunate because there’s been some opportunity where he could jump in and get a chance to prove himself here over the last month and a half with the injuries we’ve dealt with that he hasn’t been able to take advantage of. But, this is the next step for him.”

Ryan Carpenter, the Barracuda’s leading scorer with 18 points in 20 games, will make his NHL debut on Saturday if Nieto is unable to go. The 24-year-old Florida native was signed as a free agent on March 26, 2014.

“I’ve been given a little more opportunity, more power play time, more ice time. I think that helps,” Carpenter said of his AHL season so far. “And, I think just being a second year pro, you’re adjusted more. I think I’ve taken another step in my game.”

DeBoer said: “He’s earned the right to be up here on how he’s played down there. All the reports are he’s played really well. He was a guy that we liked out of training camp. I thought he was a little slow through exhibition, but went down there, worked hard, got his game back, and he’s the right guy to come up.”