Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.

Couture playing through pain, giving Sharks emotional lift

Couture playing through pain, giving Sharks emotional lift

EDMONTON – There are always doctors and dentists on duty at NHL games. These days, they are likely paying a little more attention to one player than any other.

Logan Couture revealed after Tuesday’s 7-0 Sharks in in Game 4 that after getting hit up high by Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, he had to get a little procedure done between periods.

“They just had to put some numbing into my face,” he said. “Got hit in teeth again. The dentist put some numbing in, and felt good the rest of the game.”
 
Couture ditched the full cage that he was wearing prior to Game 3, saying that if he were to take another puck to the mouth like he did on March 25 in Nashville, he’d probably be the “unluckiest guy in the world.”

While that may be true, the exposed lower half of his face is still susceptible to errant sticks, elbows or fists, as Game 4 showed. The Oilers seem to be targeting Couture, too, including a high hit from Eric Gryba in Game 1 and another by Zack Kassian in Game 2.

Still, Couture motors on, and in Game 4 he was arguably the Sharks’ best player as he posted his first playoff points – a pair of goals – in San Jose’s win. All the while, the hardware in his mouth is visible, as he has what is called an arch bar keeping his bottom teeth from falling out and some plastic bonding keeping the remaining top ones in place.

Every NHL player that’s fortunate enough to still be playing in the postseason is dealing with bumps and bruises, but Couture’s willingness to play through the kind of injury that he suffered – as well as the dental work that’s in his future, as at least half a dozen of his teeth will get replaced – seems especially fearless, even by NHL player standards.

His teammates have noticed.

“It definitely gives you an extra jolt on the ice, seeing him [and Joe Thornton], guys battling through injuries, guys coming back from painful situations and giving 100 percent out on the ice and just giving it all – it’s really inspiring,” Chris Tierney said. “It gives a lot of jump to us, and gives the team a lot of energy.”

Joel Ward said: “For him to come back like that, obviously he’s a warrior. For him not to just be there but contribute as much as he has, key minutes – he’s a talented dude. The guys love him, just excited for him to be back. He definitely gives us a big lift.”

It’s a positive sign for the Sharks, too, that Couture seems to be improving with each game. Had the Sharks managed to beat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final last June, Couture likely would have been the Conn Smythe Award winner for playoff MVP, posting a league-leading 30 points in 24 games. That’s the Couture they need on the ice if they’re going to make a run.

For now, Couture can continue giving the Sharks an emotional boost as he continues to improve physically.

Pete DeBoer said: “When you see your best players with that type of commitment level – refusing to use injuries as an excuse, the behind the scenes stuff and what they’re going through getting prepared to play and help us – obviously, that’s motivating.”

Sharks' Tierney walks off dirty stick by Draisaitl

Sharks' Tierney walks off dirty stick by Draisaitl

SAN JOSE – The Oilers have dished out some borderline hits in their series with the Sharks so far, but forward Leon Draisaitl crossed the line on Tuesday night in Game 4 when he was caught pitchforking Chris Tierney in the groin in the second period.

Draisaitl, who has done next to nothing through four games and has been demoted from the Connor McDavid line, was issued a five-minute major for spearing and a game misconduct at 13:44 of the second period of the Sharks’ 7-0 win. He could be hearing from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Wednesday, too.

Tierney needed some time to recover in the dressing room, but returned.

What happened?

"Just feel a stick groin in my groin, so obviously it doesn't feel well at the time,” Tierney said. “Just kind of dropped and went to shake it off. Takes a couple minutes to recover from something like that. But felt OK the rest of the game."

Logan Couture didn’t like the play.

“That’s a play that you don’t like to see as a hockey player,” Couture said. “Obviously, probably frustrating on his part. I think it’s dangerous. Any time you spear a guy like that you’re intending to injure him. I don’t like those types of plays in this game, but the refs made a good call with throwing him out.”

As is common during a playoff series, the Sharks and Oilers seem to be developing some animosity towards each other. With the game already decided by the late stages of the second period, Joe Pavelski was on the receiving end of a cross-check by Patrick Maroon a few minutes after the Draisaitl incident. Pavelski also had words with Kris Russell and Darnell Nurse during the course of the evening.

Still, the Sharks mostly kept their cool, and by the midway point of the third period there wasn’t much action with San Jose ahead by a touchdown.

"I think our team, we're not a team that likes to get into any extra curricular activities after whistles,” Tierney said. “We want to skate away and stay out of penalty trouble, stay out of the roughing after the whistles, the slashings, the stuff like that. I think we've a pretty disciplined team, so that's our game plan from the start."