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At the Rink: Flyers at Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers will each have a key player return to the lineup when they meet at SAP Center on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-PH).

Sharks center Logan Couture will be back in action after missing the past seven game following right thigh surgery to stop arterial bleeding.

Defenseman Mark Streit (pubic plate surgery) was activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup after missing the past 19 games for the Flyers, who will have Michal Neuvirth in net.

Couture missed 23 games earlier in the season with a broken leg and has played only five of San Jose's 35 games. He injured his thigh on Dec. 9 against the Edmonton Oilers in his second game after returning from a broken leg. Couture will center the second line between Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward.

"It's never easy after missing three months or whatever it's been," Couture said following San Jose's morning skate at its practice facility. "It's not going to be easy. I know that. I expect some hard times, some good times. Just going to give it my all."

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said he will manage Couture's minutes a little bit, as he did when Couture returned from a broken leg Dec. 8 against the Calgary Flames. Couture played 12:38 and struggled in that game, a 4-2 loss.

"It is tough, but he's a world-class player too," DeBoer said. "It's easier for those guys because even at 80 percent he's still a very good player. That's why the decision to put him in is easy, because even not at 100 percent he's still a very effective player and can help us in a lot different ways."

Couture will resume his role on San Jose's top power-play unit.

Streit will be paired with Nick Schultz and will also play on the Flyers' second power-play unit. Like Couture, Streit knows it will be a challenge to come back after a long layoff.

"It was a rough stretch, but I feel good," Streit said after the Flyers' morning skate at SAP Center. "I'm obviously really excited to be back in the lineup and to play. Every time when you miss time with an injury, it's tough to get back, to get back in a rhythm. It's kind of jumping in cold water. Take one shift at a time and keep it simple out there. Short shifts as well. Just smooth into it. Not everything is going to be perfect tonight, but just step by step."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he'll keep a close eye on Streit in his first game back.

"We'll see how it goes," Hakstol said. "I think he's had pretty good energy in practice, and I'm sure he'll have a little bit of adrenaline going. We'll see how the first couple of days back go. I'm sure being off for that amount of time, there's going to be a transition getting back into it. But he'll be fine. He's a good veteran."

The Flyers waived forward Sam Gagner on Tuesday to clear salary cap space to activate Streit. Gagner cleared waivers Wednesday and was assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

Neuvirth will make his first start since Dec. 15 against the Carolina Hurricanes, ending a stretch of four games backing up Steve Mason. Neuvirth is 8-4-2 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. Mason is 7-9-5 with a 2.79 GAA and .912 save percentage.

"Just a very consistent performer," Hakstol said of Neuvirth. "Just goes about his business quietly. He kind of plays that way. He's very calm, very composed, not a lot of wasted movement to his game. He's been very consistent for us night in, night out and that's what you want out of a guy in net."

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones (15-11-2) will make his fourth straight start. He gave up five goals on 25 shots Monday in a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center.

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn

Jakub Voracek - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Scott Laughton - R.J. Umberger

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Mark Streit - Nick Schultz

Radko Gudas - Evgeny Medvedev

Shayne Gostisbehere - Luke Schenn

Michal Neuvirth

Steve Mason

Injured: Michael Del Zotto (left wrist)

Scratched: Brandon Manning, Vincent Lecavalier


Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joel Ward

Matt Nieto - Tomas Hertl - Joonas Donskoi

Dainius Zubrus - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Dylan DeMelo - Brenden Dillon

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: None

Scratched: Ben Smith, Mike Brown

Status update: The Sharks sent defenseman Matt Tennyson to the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL for a conditioning assignment. … Del Zotto will miss his second straight game. … Karlsson returned to the top line from the fourth line, switching places with Zubrus. … Manning, who has been in the lineup 27 games, will be a healthy scratch.

Who's hot: Voracek has a six-game point streak with three goals and six assists. … Couturier has six points (two goals, four assists) over his past five games. … Thornton has a six-game point streak with two goals and six assists. … Burns has two goals and two assists over his past two games.

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