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At the Rink: Sharks at Flames

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com

CALGARY -- San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture will return to the lineup Tuesday against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome (9 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, SNW).

Couture has missed the past 23 games with a fractured right fibula sustained in a practice at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Oct. 15.

"I've been anxious for a little while, since I started walking and skating a little bit," Couture said. "It's tough watching games. It's tough getting bag-skated every day. You want to come back and you want to help the guys. Guys have stepped up. That's what you need if you're going to be a good hockey team. One injury isn't going to define you; one player isn't going to define you. I think we've shown that. Guys have gone down throughout the year and other guys have stepped up and played well and we've won some games."

Couture was activated off injured reserve Monday.

In three games -- all wins for San Jose -- Couture has one assist and a plus-1 rating.

"It's an exciting day," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We had him for the first three games of the season and were rolling pretty good. He's missed 20-plus (games). He's a welcomed addition. I just think the energy he brings to the room, the guys seeing him around and out there, I know there's going to be a little bit of a transition getting back up to game speed, but he's got a full clean bill of health from the doctors and he says he's ready to go."

San Jose (14-12-0) has lost three in a row and four of its past five games after sweeping a six-game road trip.

Forward Patrick Marleau said Couture's return will give the Sharks a lift.

"He's a huge part of this team," said Marleau, who is expected to skate on a line with Couture and Joel Ward against the Flames (10-14-2). "It's another part of the puzzle. Obviously, he's been something we've missed here throughout the games. We've done a fairly good job but having him back is going to be huge."

DeBoer cautioned Couture would be brought along slowly in his return.

"We're definitely not going to throw him right into 19 or 20 minutes a night and use him in every situation like he typically would get used, but at the same time my conversations with him have been that he's got to dictate that," he said. "I'm assuming when he got a clean bill that he's ready to go. I've got a few restrictions in mind, but it's going to be up to him to let me know how he's feeling."

San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who missed the 4-3 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday because of a lower-body injury, will not play.

Calgary defenseman Kris Russell, who missed the 5-4 overtime win against the Boston Bruins on Friday because of an upper-body injury, will also miss his second consecutive game.

"He's champing at the bit," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. "He's like a politician right now. He's knocking at every door trying to get votes. That's who he is but we're going to do the right thing with him. He's not far, but at the same time, I think our medical staff is doing the right thing for Kris."

Here are the projected lineups:

SHARKS

Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joel Ward

Matt Nieto - Tomas Hertl - Tommy Wingels

Dainius Zubrus - Chris Tierney - Joonas Donskoi

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun

Mirco Mueller - Matt Tennyson

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Ben Smith (concussion), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body)

Scratched: Dylan DeMelo

FLAMES

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - David Jones

Sam Bennett - Markus Granlund - Jiri Hudler

Mason Raymond - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Micheal Ferland - Matt Stajan - Joe Colborne

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Dennis Wideman - Dougie Hamilton

Ladislav Smid - Deryk Engelland

Karri Ramo

Jonas Hiller

Injured: Lance Bouma (broken leg), Kris Russell (upper body)

Scratched: Brandon Bollig, Josh Jooris

Status report: San Jose placed forward Ben Smith on injured reserve Monday. Donskoi, who had been with Marleau and Ward in Couture's absence, is expected to skate on the fourth line. … Ramo will start for the 15th time in the past 16 games.

Who's hot: Ward has two goals and five assists in his past seven games. … Gaudreau has five goals and eight points in his past six games, and has seven goals and 10 assists during a nine-game point streak at home.

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