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Couture’s Calder Chase

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture (39) celebrates his second goal of the night, this one during the third period, as Phoenix Coyotes' Michal Rozsival (32), of the Czech Republic, skates behind, in an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The Sharks have been one of the National Hockey League’s premiere clubs for the last several years, but they haven’t had an individual award winner since 2005-06 when Joe Thornton’s magical season concluded with the Hart Memorial (most valuable player) and Art Ross (points leader) Trophies and Jonathan Cheechoo brought home the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (most goals).


San Jose has come close recently with Jed Ortmeyer being a Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy finalist in 2009-10, Todd McLellan being a Jack Adams Award finalist in 2008-09 and Evgeni Nabokov was a Vezina finalist in 2007-08. However, none came home with the hardware. This year, rookie center Logan Couture could end that drought as his play continues to make him stand out in a crowded fight for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

When Couture posted his 30th goal against Phoenix, it was just another reminder of the season he’s had. Among rookies, Couture ranks first in game-winning goals (eight, four ahead of second place) and shots (238). He’s second in goals (30, one behind the leader), points (53, one behind) and time on ice for forwards (17:57).

San Jose Sharks' Ryane Clowe (29) celebrates his goal with teammate Logan Couture (39) as Phoenix Coyotes' Ilya Bryzgalov, of Russia, skates away during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
On the Sharks, Couture trails only Patrick Marleau in goals and tops all Sharks in plus/minus. So which fact is more impressive?

“The goal scoring because it’s so hard to score in this League,” Ryane Clowe said. “Just the fact that most of his goals have come five-on-five. He’s scoring dirty goals and going to the net. To score 30 goals as a rookie, and he’s probably going to score more than 30, that’s impressive.”

“You think of his age and you think it’s a pretty good plus/minus,” Marleau said. “Then you think of his age and you think it’s a lot of goals. You don’t have one without the other. You’ve got to score goals and play defense to have those numbers.”

No doubt the strong plus/minus can’t happen without the points.

“One goes with the other,” McLellan said. “When you’ve been able to score 30 goals as a rookie, you are probably going to be a plus player.”

San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture (39) scores against Phoenix Coyotes' Ilya Bryzgalov, of Russia, while Sharks' Dany Heatley (15) celebrates during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Couture had a taste of the NHL last year during the regular season and the playoffs and that may be what has kept him from too long of an extended down time.

“It’s hard to come in and feel confident each and every night and put up numbers like he has,” Marleau said. “The way he approaches games is very professional at a very young age. If he continues to do that and build off that, it’s going to be a great career.”

From the goal scoring perspective, Clowe notes Couture’s ability to score in different ways that keeps defenses on their toes.

“He’s a guy a lot of times working the corners and buzzing around in front of the net,” Clowe said. “It’s not like he’s just waiting in the slot for one-timers. He creates just as much (for others). One thing you notice about Logan is he’s big in the torso and the legs. He skates really low and is really powerful. The D has trouble with him. I’m sure the D thinks, ‘Let’s run this guy over and squash him, get him out of the game.’ But it’s not that easy. He’s solid on his skates and he’s too smart.”

San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) shoots and scores as Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Couture has noticed the more successful he’s been, the more attention he draws and the 30th goal will only add to that. What Couture hasn’t given much consideration to is what a season-ending League award would mean to his career.

“I don’t’ think I’ve thought about it too much,” Couture said. “When the season ends and I look back at the season and reflect on the type of year I have, hopefully I end up with more than 30. It’s a milestone.”

If there’s one quirk to Couture’s season, it’s his penchant for scoring more than two-thirds of his goals on the road. Twenty-two of the 30 tallies have come away from HP Pavilion.

“I don’t understand it at all. I love playing at home,” Couture said with a smile. “It’s just the way it goes. Maybe next year I’ll have the majority of my goals at home.”

Award or not, Couture is content with his professional progression.

“I’m proud of the way I’ve played this year without looking at the numbers,” Couture said. “I’ve played the way I’m capable of playing and stepped in and done a good job as a first-year player. Hopefully that can continue on in the playoffs. It’s been a fun year and we’re just focused on these six games to clinch a spot.”

Hopefully the Calder Memorial Trophy would be a perfect conclusion to a long playoff run, but Couture is almost assured of being the first Sharks forward named to the NHL All-Rookie Team since Jeff Friesen in 1994-95.

San Jose Sharks' Scott Nichol will not play on Thursday against Dallas. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
NICHOL GETS CLOSER
Center Scott Nichol is taking a more aggressive role in practices and thinks his return is coming soon.

“It’s starting to get there,” McLellan said. “Not yet (about Thursday). The way this week sets up, we’ll see after that, but probably not Thursday.”

THE FROZEN FOUR
Sharks prospect defenseman Lee Moffie had a goal and an assist as Michigan held off Colorado College, 2-1, in the second round of the NCAA hockey tournament in St. Louis .

Joe Pavelski, who helped Wisconsin to the 2006 NCAA Championship, has fond memories of his run to the Frozen Four.

“For a college player, it’s your Stanley Cup, it’s your season,” Pavelski said. “It’s what you’ve played for. It’s what you’ve worked for in the summers. It’s a big, exciting stage. There will be good hockey and you can test your skills. It’s the time of the season you want to play and have some success.”

Pavelski experienced his run to the national championship, which was played in his home state.

“It was huge,” Pavelski said. “It was a big in-state crowd and it was pretty exciting.”

GOOD SAMARITAN
Defensive prospect Nick Petrecki has been named the Worcester Sharks winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year Award for his outstanding contributions to the Worcester community during the 2010-11 season.

The second-year professional has taken the initiative to go above and beyond in regards to community outreach and has established himself as a leader in the Worcester community.

NEXT GAME
San Jose returns to action Thursday at 7:30 against Dallas. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com and the contest will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.

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