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Sharks minus coach again, could get Couture back

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE -- San Jose forward Dominic Moore will return to the lineup Thursday night against Buffalo after missing four games with a lower-body injury, but injured forward Logan Couture will be a game-time decision, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan will definitely miss his second straight game.

McLellan is still suffering concussion-like symptoms after being struck in the head Sunday by the stick of Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella in a freak accident after Scandella was checked into the boards in front of San Jose's bench.

Sharks assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft will again share the coaching duties Thursday night, as they did Tuesday night during a 1-0 win against Philadelphia. Woodcroft, though, said McLellan remains "very involved" in the game planning and preparation.

"He's getting better each and every day," Woodcroft said after the Sharks' morning skate. "He's feeling better, and both Matt and I consult him every day. We're in touch with him. He's coming into the building and being a big part of our game plan.

"He's getting better, so that's the primary concern of not only Matt and myself, but the whole organization, is to get Todd better. He's getting better, which is very positive. I think you saw our team's response in the last game. They knew we were missing our leader, but our leadership group in terms of players really stepped up. Bottom line is we're in a playoff hunt, and every two points is important. You saw that against Philadelphia, and we're definitely going to bring the same attitude tonight."

Sharks coach Joe Thornton said many players on the team understand first-hand what McLellan is going through as he recovers from a blow to the head.

"He's going to come back when he feels comfortable behind the bench," Thornton said. "I'm sure the lights still give him problems and the sounds. A lot of guys in here have gone through concussions, and you never know how long they're going to last. We just hope he gets back quick."

After coming to the Sharks on Feb. 16 from Tampa Bay in a trade, Moore played just three games before being sidelined.

Moore said he's "feeling good" and is ready to return to the lineup after a "very frustrating" stint off the ice.

"You never want to be missing time, and you want to be helping the team as much as you can," Moore said. "It was very tough, but I'm excited to be back, back in action."

Couture, San Jose's leading goal scorer, missed the Philadelphia game with a lower-body injury he suffered Sunday at Minnesota, where he took three hard hits. He skated briefly with his teammates Thursday morning before heading to the dressing room.

"Logan made some progress today, felt a lot better," Woodcroft said. "It will be a game-time decision today."

Two other injured Sharks -- forward Martin Havlat and defenseman Douglas Murray -- practiced with the full team for the first time since being injured. Havlat suffered a partially torn hamstring tendon on Dec. 17 against Edmonton and underwent surgery. Murray took a puck to his Adam's apple on Feb. 16 against Tampa Bay.

Havlat and Murray are both making strides, but neither one knows when he'll return to action. Havlat, though, said he definitely wants to log some games before the playoffs.

"The more the better. I have to get used to everything again," Havlat said. "It's like getting ready for a new season. Same situation I was in when I was coming back after the shoulder injury. I want to play as many games as I can to get ready, physically and timing-wise, too."

Havlat said he faces some challenges before he's game-ready.

"I've got to get stronger and get used to the movements on the ice, all those quick movements and the stop and starts, that's the most important during the game and that's (what) I have to work on," he said.

Murray has been skating hard, but has yet to be cleared to play by doctors. The No. 1 concern is that he might experience swelling that would affect his breathing.

"It felt good, but you know how it goes when it comes to your head or breathing," Murray said. "They're a lot more careful. … It's day to day, and hopefully I'll be out there soon."

Murray wore extra padding to protect his throat during the morning skate and expects to wear it when he returns to action.

"I've worn worse things that bother me a lot more than this to protect from injuries," Murray said. "It's not a problem."
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