The Sharks will benefit from some improved health for Wednesday’s Western Conference clash with Calgary. Rookie center Logan Couture
, who was forced to leave the St. Louis game last Saturday, is ready to play.
|San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture, right, asks for assistance from St. Louis Blues goalie Ty Conklin after suffering an injury during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 19, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
“Absolutely,” Head Coach Todd McLellan when asked about Couture’s availability.
“It did (feel better),” Couture said after this morning’s skate. “I think I’m ready to play.”
The gap from last Saturday when the injury occurred until Wednesday allowed Couture the possibility of not missing any games.
“Right when it happened I didn’t think I’d be ready to play, but it’s gotten a lot better the last couple of days,” Couture said. “I’m sure if we played back-to-back or even yesterday, I probably would’ve missed a game. The couple of days off allowed me and a couple of other guys some rest.”
Injuries are just a fact of life this late in the season for every team.
“Every team at this time of the year wants to be as healthy as possible and have all options available,” McLellan said. “That’s just unrealistic and we’re not immune to that. The fact that we have some key people able to play and produce is something we have to take advantage of. We’ll have our bumps and bruises and illnesses. The team that finds a way to overcome is successful.”
San Jose could also see the return of defenseman Niclas Wallin, who has been out since taking a hit from behind in the March 15 Dallas game.
“Wally will be a game time decision,” McLellan said. “He’s feeling much better and we’ll see how he is tonight.”
The Sharks and Flames have had a few playoff series and there’s always a combative nature to the matchup. San Jose has won two of the three series, the conference quarterfinals in 1995 and 2008.
“It’s a big rivalry playing these guys. We don’t like them, they don’t like us,” Couture said. “We need the two points, they need the two points.”
Calgary is the definition of a desperate hockey club as they have the fewest games remaining (seven) among the teams fighting for a Western Conference playoff berth. Even though San Jose leads the Pacific Division and has the No. 3 spot, they still see themselves as one of those teams.
“We feel like we’ve been part of the mess of teams for the past two months,” McLellan said. “We didn’t put ourselves in a position of comfort early in the year. We’ve had to scratch and claw. We understand the standings and we’re not comfortable by any means. The challenge that’s in front of us on a nightly basis is something most players embrace.”
The fact that San Jose hasn’t already clinched a spot like Vancouver adds to the stress down the stretch.
“We’re in the NHL and it’s stressful,” McLellan said. “Game One in the exhibition season finds a way to be stressful. We’re bread to be competitors. I think that’s what drives these players. Maybe that’s what makes the difference between them and some other players who don’t make the National Hockey League.”
The Sharks plays host to Calgary tonight at 7 and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com