Sharks' Vlasic back at practice; Haley awaits punishment

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Sharks' Vlasic back at practice; Haley awaits punishment

SAN JOSE – Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned to practice on Monday after missing two of the Sharks’ four games on their recently completed road trip.

Vlasic did not play in Tuesday’s game in Minnesota or Saturday’s game in Nashville with the flu, and was spotted walking with a slight limp after Friday’s game in Dallas when he took just one shift in the third period before departing.

Not surprisingly, center Logan Couture was missing after he took a deflected puck to the mouth on Saturday in Nashville and will miss some time, although the team has yet to update his condition.

Joe Thornton was also not at practice, although he was likely taking a maintenance day. Micheel Haley skated as a placeholder on his line with Jannik Hansen and Joe Pavelski.

With Couture out, Patrick Marleau centered a line with Melker Karlsson and Mikkel Boedker. Chris Tierney was between Joonas Donskoi and Timo Meier, while Tomas Hertl skated with Marcus Sorensen and Joel Ward.

Haley was set to have a hearing with the NHL’s department of player safety on Monday for what the league called a “sucker punch” of Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday. News of his punishment is expected later in the day.

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

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.”

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.