Programming note: Sharks-Jets coverage starts tonight at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – One of the reasons Logan Couture is perhaps the Sharks’ most indispensable player is his proficiency on the penalty kill. He regularly takes shifts while the team is shorthanded, and is a big reason that group ranks fifth in the NHL.
[RELATED: Couture questionable for Sharks-Jets]
A big part of penalty killing, though, is blocking shots. Getting in front of 100 mile-per-hour howitzers is a requirement, and Couture has no problem with that part of the gig, either. In fact, he’s ninth in the NHL among forwards with 60 blocked shots in 57 games (tied with Joe Pavelski), and is the only player among the top 19 that has played in fewer than 60 games.
It’s also why he missed most of Monday’s game in Calgary and all of Tuesday in Edmonton. He’s questionable to play against the Jets on Thursday, too, still feeling the effects of getting in front of a pair of Mark Giordano blasts.
But, don’t expect him to change his approach whenever he’s healthy enough to return.
“That's just the way we are. We're proud hockey players. The guys who penalty kill on our team are a proud group,” Couture said on Thursday. “We want to be the best penalty kill in the league. We know we have to block shots for that to happen.”
Couture isn’t the only one, of course. Moments before Couture was struck in the foot on Monday against Calgary, Tommy Wingels was hit by a Giordano blast, too, forcing him to miss the end of the first period. Adam Burish’s regular season is over after a Jeff Petry shot got him in the left hand on Tuesday, disfiguring two of his fingers.
“You see guys -- Tommy, Pav, Patty, Bur -- all the guys who PK, I wouldn't say happy [about it], but they want to block shots,” Couture said. “It's good for the team to see other guys step up and get in lanes. It's not going to feel too good, but guys are willing to do it."
The threat of suffering a significant injury this close to the postseason won’t discourage Todd McLellan from putting his key players in potentially dangerous situations.
“Nope. Logan may be our best penalty killer as far as a forward goes. He takes faceoffs, he sacrifices himself for the team. You can’t do that part-time,” McLellan said.
“You can’t pick and choose when you want to compete, when you want to block a shot, when you want to go in the corner, when you want to win a battle. You start doing that, you start creating losing habits. … We’re concerned that it can happen, but we’re not going to change the way we approach the game.”
The Sharks’ elder statesman, Dan Boyle, has seen a different approach to blocking shots now when compared to when he first broke into the league in the 1998-99 season.
“I’ll tell ya, I’ve been playing for a long time long, and that’s definitely one of the biggest changes in the game that I’ve seen. Thirteen, fourteen years ago, the third and maybe the fourth line guys would be sacrificing the body, but now everybody is,” Boyle said.
“I don’t know that guys are going to change. It’s just the way the game is, and what you have to do now. It’s a scary thing to do, and you get hurt sometimes, but I don’t think guys are going to stop doing it because it helps you win hockey games.”