Q&A with Sharks center Logan Couture

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Q&A with Sharks center Logan Couture

On Tuesday, I caught up with Logan Couture during his last few hours in Switzerland for an interview on 95.7 The Game. After 23 points in 22 games with Geneva-Servette, he’s headed back home, and says he will not look to play anywhere else but the NHL this season.  Here’s a transcript of the interview:

On making the decision to stop playing in Switzerland and head back to Canada:

“It was something that I looked at doing for a couple weeks. My main goal was to come over to Switzerland and get in shape for the NHL season, and be ready when it starts.  At this point where I’m at right now, I think I’m ready if the season were to start in the next couple weeks. I’m in game shape, played 20 plus games and got my timing down and everything.  I think I looked at it as a risk-and-reward type thing, where if I continue to play over here and something bad did happen, I would regret it. I’m coming back to Canada to spend some time with my family, which I don’t get to do very often during the season, it’s going to be nice to spend the holidays with them, but I’m hoping a deal does get done soon and we get back to playing hockey.”

On how Swiss hockey compares to the NHL game:

“It’s a lot different, obviously the rink is bigger, it’s much wider. The players are smaller and much less physical.  You get a lot more time with the puck over here.  Players lack the high end skill, but they can all skate.  That’s one thing I realized over here, all the Swiss players they’re fast.  They can really skate in the open ice and they use the extra ice that there is out there, with the space.  It’s a lot different hockey.  I can count the times I was physically hit with a body on one hand over 20 plus games so it’s a big difference.”

On what he will take away from his experience in Switzerland:

“Probably just being in a different country. This is the first time where I’ve been able to spend an extended time overseas in Europe. I was lucky enough to get some time to travel; I went to Paris for a couple days and went to Italy, just going around Europe a little bit.  But I’m a North American guy and I really miss being home, and the one thing that was being tough on me was during the baseball playoffs, not being able to watch.  Games don’t come on over here till 2 or 3 in the morning.”

On being alone in Europe:

“I’m all alone, I lived in a hotel for basically the first 2 months, and you know it got tough.  That’s one thing that was tough on me was being in a single hotel room for 2 months and being away from my family and the time change was tough.”

On how players view the owners, individually or as a whole:

“I haven’t spoke to any of the owners, except for two.  I was in a meeting in July, when the NHL gave us our first proposal. (Boston’s owner Jeremy) Jacobs was there, and the owner from Minnesota (Craig Leipold) was there, and you just get the feeling in those types of meetings with those two, that they are all about themselves and making money, they could care less who the players are. We all introduced ourselves to the owners, those two owners.  And they probably couldn’t tell, us, who we were. They don’t know who the players are, stuff like that.  It doesn’t mean it’s that way for all 30 owners. The players, we don’t know (about the owners) because they’re not allowed to talk.  We haven’t spoken to Sharks owners, anything like that; we don’t know how they feel about it. So that’s what we’re hoping to learn.”

On the communication process with owners:

“We’re going off what we’re hearing from players at those meetings. We’re living off that. It would be nice to hear what they (owners) all think. I think Bettman only needs 8 of them to vote with him and get something to pass. It’s tough for any of the players to gauge where they’re at, because we don’t hear a thing from them (directly).”

On his gut reaction, if there will be an NHL season:

“I hope so.  That’s what we all want to do as hockey players. I’ve played it my entire life for 19 years since I was 3 years old, you know it’s tough waking up not going to the rink, not getting into that game day groove, or to practice. I hope we get this figured out soon.”

Logan’s plans to stay in game shape:

“I’m going to get back into the gym probably starting next week. This first weekend I’m going to check out one of my brother’s games, I haven’t been able to watch him play in 6 or 7 years now. That will be nice to do, just get back and enjoy some time with my parents. Spend some nights and days; really I haven’t seen them in 2 months and it’s been hard to keep in touch with the time change. Probably start working out next week and looking for some ice. I’ve got some buddies, I know Corey Perry (Ducks) and Drew Doughty (Kings) are home in London (Ontario) skating, and just go from there.”

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

SAN JOSE – In an important rebound performance, the Sharks handled the Winnipeg Jets fairly easily in a 5-2 victory at SAP Center on Monday afternoon. They put an end to a stretch of losing five of seven (2-4-1), and have now won three of their last five (3-2-0). Here are the three main points we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Third line leads the way

We focused on Joel Ward in our primary game recap yesterday, as Ward’s performance and the play he made on the second goal stood out. But Ward’s linemates Timo Meier and Chris Tierney also put an end to lengthy scoring streaks, as Meier got a goal for the first time in 13 games and Tierney got one for the first time in 14 games.

All three players had two points, with a goal and an assist each, while Tierney and Ward were each a plus-three (Meier was a plus-two).

“Obviously for a forward you want to score goals but sometimes you just have to be patient,” Meier said. “It’s my first season in the NHL and [I’m trying to] stay patient, work hard and just keep going and do the little things right. I know it will build up to success if I do the little things right.”

Tierney was in need of a strong game maybe more than anyone else, as he continues to fill in on the third line for an injured Tomas Hertl, who still has no official timeline to return. Tierney had just one point, an assist, since scoring that goal against the Senators on Dec. 14 headed into Monday.

He liked the way his line was working.

“Both those guys on the wing are big heavy guys,” he said. “They get in the corners, they win puck battles. They go to the net hard, they get pucks out of our own end. It’s pretty easy.”

Here’s one stat we missed on the postgame sheet, too: Ward was a perfect nine-for-nine in the faceoff circle.

2 – Don’t underestimate the goaltending

While everyone got a laugh at Martin Jones’ failed try at an empty net goal in the closing seconds, Jones was as important a player the Sharks had on Monday. The Sharks looked like they were taking some time to get into the game, perhaps unaccustomed to the early start, and Jones made some point-blank saves to keep it scoreless before Ward’s shorthanded score. 

"They came out ready to play,” Pete DeBoer said of the Jets. “The first five minutes Jonesy made some big saves, allowed us to kind of get our legs going. And then I thought we really started to play.”

On the other end, goalie Michael Hutchinson wasn’t nearly as sharp. He was off his angle on Ward’s goal, and on Brent Burns’ power play goal, he failed to read the shot going wide and it deflected in off of the back of his skate. 

I tweeted before the game that it seems like there are more NHL teams than usual that are dealing with goaltending problems these days. In fact, the Jets got so desperate after Monday’s game that they recalled former starter Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL. The Sharks clearly don’t have that problem, so long as Jones remains healthy. Jones’ importance to this team simply can’t be overstated, and it was proven again on Monday.

3 – Slowing down the Jets

Several players spoke about how the Sharks were able to slow down the Jets, who possess some pretty speedy players, after that initial push. Winnipeg beat the Sharks twice last season in three meetings.

“I just thought once we got pucks in [deep], [we had] some poise to hold on to it and make plays, just slow them down a little bit.” Ward said. “They’re a fast team obviously, really good on transition. If we could play in their end a little bit and frustrate them a little bit mentally, we’d get some chances.”

Jones said: “I think after the first 10 minutes we really started taking over the game. We did a good job slowing them down. They’re a really fast team with some good forwards. We did a great job through the neutral zone, kind of eliminating their speed.”

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Joel Ward has been in the league long enough to know that the Sharks got outworked and outhustled in their decisive loss to the Blues on Saturday.

That could be why he put his body on the line in the second period against the Jets on Monday afternoon at SAP Center. Ward hustled to a loose puck along the wall with the Sharks holding a slim 1-0 lead and slipped it ahead to Chris Tierney, before getting absolutely plastered by Mark Stuart on a hit as big as you’ll see in today’s NHL.

While Ward was sluggish to get up as a result of his head bouncing off the ice surface, Tierney gave it to Timo Meier, who finished off a breakaway goal early in the second period.

While he was seeing stars from what he called a “clean hit,” Ward also heard the goal horn.

“I tried to get the puck out, obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

What happened was a 5-2 Sharks win, two days after one of their worst performances of the season, a 4-0 home defeat to St. Louis. San Jose withstood an early push by the visiting Jets but took over the game in the second period, particularly after Ward’s sacrifice.

"That's the commitment we talk about,” Pete DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play, [Meier] scores the goal. We need that. Joel's a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That's what it's going to take at this time of year in order to have success."

In a rare afternoon start, the Sharks looked sleepy in the beginning. The Jets were the better team for the first few minutes, but Martin Jones made sure they didn’t get on the board. He made a key stop on a Shawn Matthias one-timer just 1:29 into the first period, and then bailed out David Schlemko on a defensive zone turnover a few minutes later, again denying Matthias.

The Sharks went to the penalty kill after Schlemko’s cross-checking minor at 11:39, but Ward scored 15 seconds after that, picking the corner over Michael Hutchinson for a pretty shorthanded marker. He correctly read a Justin Braun clearing attempt, when Braun rimmed it past Dustin Byfuglien, who couldn’t keep it in at the blue line. 

After that, “just kind of saw glove side and fired it there as quick as I could,” Ward said.

That led to a dominant second period for San Jose. Along with Meier’s goal, Brent Burns scored on a power play and the slumping Jets were noticeably deflated from there.

Jones said the Jets “came out real hard,” but, “that’s pretty much all [my teammates] needed from me today. You can’t really ask for much more than that from the guys. They put up five, and slowed down a pretty fast team.”

Tierney said: “Joner did a great job of keeping us in it and not giving up a goal there and putting us behind. After that, we kind of got it going a bit and started playing our game.”

There was even some late comedy. Trailing 4-1 at the time, Jets coach Paul Maurice decided to take Hutchinson out for an extra attacker. Jones noticed the empty net and was lining up a shot after he retrieved a dump-in. It didn’t go more than a foot in front of him, though, as Mark Scheifele blocked it and slipped it into an empty net.

Jones could be seen grinning through his mask, while Tierney said he was “laughing on the bench.”

“That’s the first time I’ve tried [shooting at an empty net], and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

In total, Monday's result offered quite the change in mood from Saturday’s whipping.

DeBoer said: “I don't think anyone in our room was happy with how last game went. It was a good bounce-back game."

“It was definitely good today to rebound, and get back to winning,” Ward said.