SAN JOSE – Throughout the Sharks’ first half inconsistency, as well as their second half success, coach Pete DeBoer has often been quick to point out how Logan Couture’s status affected both. They struggled with him out, and surged with him in.
To quickly recap, Couture fractured his ankle on Oct. 15 during an off-day practice in New Jersey, and after returning on Dec. 8, suffered internal bleeding in his right thigh in just his second game back that sidelined him for another three weeks. He missed 30 of the Sharks’ first 35 games overall.
DeBoer and Couture, who leads the NHL in playoff scoring with 29 points, each went into more detail than they have in the past on just how difficult it was for the 27-year-old center both physically and emotionally.
The December injury was particularly frightening.
“Internal bleeding in my leg, in my quad from an artery that had split open somehow from taking a hit,” Couture described.
“We flew back home [from Edmonton] and my leg just kept swelling bigger and bigger. So they had to stop the bleeding somehow. They were able to do that, fortunately, before it got worse. My leg was just continuously filling with blood and it could have gotten to the point where you don’t know what’s going to happen – if you’re going to lose your leg or die. So they caught it pretty quickly, which was good.”
“I was scared. It was probably as bad as it’s been in my life thinking about something like that.”
As for the fractured ankle, which required surgery to insert a rod and pins, DeBoer indicated that the Sharks were actually fortunate that Couture only missed two-and-a-half months.
“It was a catastrophic injury, it really was,” DeBoer said. “There was talk at some points there he might miss up to six months.”
From a team perspective, though, Couture’s time out of the lineup allowed the first-year Sharks coach to get a better sense of just kind of tools he had in the organization’s toolbox. At the time, he was likely counting down the days until Couture’s return, but on Saturday he referred to the experience as a “blessing in disguise.”
“It forced me to get to know the organization top to bottom,” DeBoer said. “We tried a lot of young guys in different spots. [Tomas] Hertl played some center. We brought guys in. [Chris] Tierney had a chance to play.
“It was a quick learn for me on the depth of the organization. Got to know the young guys, know what they could do, what they couldn't do. … We had a real good handle on the group going into the [trade] deadline, what we felt we really needed, what young guys we felt could help us.”
The time off from the grind may have helped Couture, too. When it was suggested that he’s currently playing the best hockey of his career, he agreed.
“I feel pretty good. I think things are going well offensively. We’re at this point, so I’d have to say yeah.”