OAKLAND Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been around baseball long enough that nothing really rattles the 67-year-old skipper.Think Wednesday nights blown lead in the ninth inning against the As kept him up tossing and turning in his hotel bed? Not quite.I slept great last night, Leyland said a couple of hours before the decisive Game 5 at Oakland Coliseum.According to Leyland, the 4-3 loss in which his club held a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth was a little easier to take in that his ballclub really didnt do anything wrong.I know this sounds crazy because we were all a little heartbroken, I wasnt really as upset as everybody else was last night, and Ill tell you why: We didnt walk them. We didnt hit a batter. We didnt make an error. We didnt throw the ball away or make a bad fundamental play. They beat us. They earned it. They hit the ball, and stroked the ball good off of Jose Valverde last night. Were we all a little heartbroken? Sure, but, you know what? They earned it.What may have also aided Leylands nocturnal success was the fact that hell be sending his ace, Justin Verlander, to the mound on full rest as his team tries to book a ticket to the American League Championship Series with a win against the As.Verlander pitched seven strong innings in the Tigers Game 1 victory, surrendering just one run while walking four and striking out 11.Leylands biggest concern when it comes to Verlander is that hed like to keep the star right-hander's pitch count down. Verlander threw 121 pitches in Game 1.Thats the one thing you worry about Verlander, its not so much that the A's are working the count, its that they foul pitches off, which gets his pitch count up sometimes, Leyland said. Thats what youve got to watch for tonight. I think the first inning will be a big inning for him to settle in with everything thats going on. I think hell be good no matter what, but I think the first inning will be a big inning.Leyland said he has access to his full pitching staff, including starter Doug Fister, if necessary. But his team will be in trouble if he has to go that route.This game will probably be decided with Verlander in the game. I dont have anybody better than him. If they get to him that much, well probably be in trouble.Hes confident that the Tigers will be able to put Wednesdays stunning loss behind them.You learn over the years, and I always use the expression, you cant chew yesterdays breakfast. Its over and they beat us, they earned it, they had a great celebration on the field. Game 5 is tonight, its going to be exciting, loud, and this is what we do for a living.
After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.
The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”
@DanRusanowsky Thanks Dan. It is an ugly injury sadly.— Chet Couture (@NLLREF2) March 26, 2017
Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”
Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday.
Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.
Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.
"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”
Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.
The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.
NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…
1 – No answers
Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.
“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”
Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?
“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight.
“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”
2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA
Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.
If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.
3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack
It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.
At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch.
If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?