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Sharks' Couture game-time decision vs. Bruins

by Eric Gilmore

BRUINS (14-11-1) at SHARKS (12-10-4)


SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture returned to the ice Thursday morning but still needs to pass another test in the NHL concussion protocol before he can be cleared to play Thursday night against the Boston Bruins at SAP Center.

Couture was injured early in the third period Tuesday when he collided with Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl. Raffl's shoulder hit Couture in the side of his head. Couture missed the rest of the game and did not practice Wednesday.

"He looked good out there [Thursday] but there's still some testing that needs to be done after the morning skate," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "So he'll be a game-time decision."

Couture said he felt "all right" and had no problems skating. But when asked if he would be able to play Thursday, he said, "I honestly couldn't tell you. I still have to meet with the doctors today. So I don't know."

The fact that Couture returned to the ice two days after his injury is an encouraging sign for the Sharks. So is that fact that he said he remembers "everything" from the incident.

"Just turning up ice," Couture said. "I don't know if he saw me. You can't really tell. Looked up, saw him coming and got his shoulder right to the side of my face close to my ear. Didn't feel too good."

Couture was able to skate off the ice under his own power and went directly to the locker room.

"Right after the hit I came back, and any time you get hit like that you have to go through a lot of tests," Couture said. "I did that, and that's what took up the time for me to come back. I felt fine enough to come back, but with what the doctor said it wasn't smart to come back. Waited a couple days and feel all right."

The Sharks activated forward Tyler Kennedy from injured reserve Thursday; he had missed two games with a lower-body injury. Whether he's in the lineup could depend on whether Couture plays.

During the morning skate the Sharks rotated seven skaters on the top two lines. If Couture can't play, then Patrick Marleau likely will move from left wing to center on the second line, with Matt Nieto jumping from the third line to the second line.

The Sharks have won back-to-back games after a four-game losing streak (0-2-2). They have a chance to win three straight for the first time since their first three games of the season.

"It would be huge," said Couture, who leads the Sharks in points (22) and is tied with Joe Pavelski for the lead in goals (10). "Obviously we know where we're sitting in the standings. We know we've struggled through the first 25 games. To finish this homestand off strong would be big for us."

The Bruins have lost back-to-back road games, 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday and 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Against the Sharks they'll again be without defenseman Zdeno Chara (knee), who will miss his 18th straight game, and forward David Krejci (undisclosed), who will miss his seventh straight game and 13th of the past 15.

"They're both skating," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "[Chara is] doing well and [Krejci] is doing well also. That's basically what I'm being told. Nobody's told me they're going to be back for this time or that time, but they've been skating all week back home, so encouraging that they haven't taken a step back."

The Bruins have had trouble scoring recently, with 15 goals in their past 10 games; they've scored more than two goals once during that span.

"The best way to get out of a rut is to start getting some ugly goals," Bruins forward Reilly Smith said. "It's something we got to focus on and it's probably the easiest way to start getting back in a groove and have the puck go in the back of the net.

"I've probably focused on it a little bit more this year. Especially coming from the start we had, not scoring a lot. It's been kind of a consistent thing this year where goals haven't come as easy. Last year it felt like no matter what was going on we were scoring three or four a game."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak

Milan Lucic - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson

Reilly Smith - Chris Kelly - Matt Fraser

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Simon Gagne

Dennis Seidenberg - Dougie Hamilton

Matt Bartkowski - Kevan Miller

Torey Krug - Zach Trotman

Tuukka Rask

Niklas Svedberg

Scratched: Seth Griffith, Joe Morrow

Injured: David Krejci (undisclosed), Zdeno Chara (knee), Adam McQuaid (thumb), David Warsofsky (groin)


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Tomas Hertl

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Matt Nieto - James Sheppard - Tye McGinn

Mike Brown - Andrew Desjardins - John Scott

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - Brent Burns

Matt Irwin - Scott Hannan

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Injured: Raffi Torres (knee), Troy Grosenick (upper body)

Scratched: Mirco Mueller, Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Kennedy

Status report: The Bruins had an optional morning skate so it's unclear whether Julien will juggle his lines. During the second period of Boston's loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday, Smith moved from the third line to the top line, replacing Pastrnak. Pastrnak dropped to the second line, bumping Eriksson to the third. ... Rask was the first Bruins goalie off the ice and is expected to start. ... Hertl received a mid-game promotion from the third line to the top line Tuesday during San Jose's 2-1 win against Philadelphia, and he skated on that line Thursday with Thornton and Pavelski. ... Niemi was the first Sharks goalie off the ice and is expected to make his sixth straight start.

Who's hot: Nieto has a two-game goal streak after going 22 straight games without a goal. ... Wingels has one goal and four assists in his past two games. ... Soderberg leads the Bruins in points (17), assists (12) and power-play goals (three).

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