Editor's Note: The above video is from Oct. 15, 2015.
SAN JOSE – Sharks center Logan Couture is off of injured reserve, and says he’s ready to play in Calgary on Tuesday if his number is called.
Despite taking his regular place in practice between Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward, Couture isn’t a sure thing yet to play against the Flames according to coach Pete DeBoer.
“I haven’t made that decision yet. He’s off IR because he’s available to us,” DeBoer said after practice. “We’re in a back-to-back situation. I want to see how he feels after today and talk to him tomorrow morning. There’s a lot of factors that go into that. The good news is that he is available to us, and then we’ll decide where and when he’s going to play.”
The Sharks visit the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday on a brief two-game trip through Alberta.
Although the coach was hesitant, indications from Couture were that he’s ready to compete for the first time since the team’s third game on Oct. 13 at Washington. It’s been a long road back since the former All-Star suffered a freak injury in practice at the Prudential Center in New Jersey on Oct. 15, when his skate caught a rut in the ice and he fractured his right fibula at the ankle.
[RELATED: Couture returns to practice]
In a statement, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson originally said Couture would miss 4-to-6 weeks, but it’s been nearly eight weeks since Couture had surgery on Oct. 17.
Couture first returned for practice on Nov. 27 as a limited participant but has progressed since then, culminating in his return on Monday to what some would argue is the Sharks’ top line.
“I’ve been dying to get back in for the last little while,” Couture said. “It’s not easy watching. It’s not easy just practicing. Today was a good day just to be out there with the guys on a regular line and feel like you’re part of the team again. I felt like myself finally.”
Confidence in the injured ankle was a substantial psychological hurdle for Couture to overcome once he resumed skating. An encouraging session with Sharks development coach Mike Ricci on Friday helped.
“We had a good day Friday. Just felt comfortable,” Couture said. “[Ricci] was working me pretty good, so that was a big day. Saturday I felt good, as well.”
Last season, Mike Brown suffered a similar break and Couture said earlier that he has been chatting with Brown about what it’s like to come back from an injury that occurs in such an unfortunate place for a hockey player.
Regaining that self-assurance that the injury won’t reoccur takes some time.
“That is one of the worst spots, because we are in our skates,” Brown said. “If you were in a shoe it wouldn’t really be too bad, you can tape it up, but in your skate you’re torqueing it quite a bit. That’s kind of a nerve-wracking thing. In practice you can test it a lot, just the angles, and turning and starting. You can get the confidence before [you play].”
Naturally, Couture doesn’t expect to be 100 percent right away.
“You can work as hard as you can but once you play in an NHL game there’s nothing like it,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult, but I’ve prepared myself as good as I can and I’m ready to go.”
The Sharks have had their ups and downs without Couture. They dropped five of their first seven, swept a six-game road trip, but have now dropped four of their last five headed into Tuesday.
Overall the Sharks are 11-12 without him, but they remain in second place in a weak Pacific Division at 14-12-0.
How has the team coped without one of its best players, and a guy who plays in every situation?
“Good,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think we’ve learned a lot about a lot of players as a group, and just structurally how we can play and survive in a lot of ways. Not survive, but play good games and put a pretty good product on the ice. We’ve been in all the games.”
DeBoer said: “I thought we stumbled at first, and then we kind of found our footing and guys stepped up. I think the good news is that it hasn’t eliminated us from where we want to get to, which is sometimes the case with some teams when they get into that situation. We managed to keep our head above water here, and we’ve got him back.”
Couture, named an alternate captain before the season, was a little more critical.
“We haven’t been playing that well at home, obviously. We haven’t won the games that we expect to in this room,” he said. “We expect ourselves to be higher in the standings, to have more points. We’ve got to turn it on now. We’re in a playoff spot, but just barely. We’ve got to turn it on.”
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Marc-Edouard Vlasic did not skate on Monday, after missing Saturday’s game with a lower body injury. He will not be on the upcoming road trip, so he’ll be out for at least the next two games.
DeBoer confirmed an earlier CSNCalifornia.com report that Vlasic’s injury isn’t a serious one.
“I believe that Pickles isn’t a long-term thing,” DeBoer said. “I think he’s on the horizon, for sure. We’ve got to just keep pushing for wins.”