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.”

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

SAN JOSE – For at least one night, the Sharks’ depth players – most of which have been missing in action for weeks – found the scoresheet against the Rangers in a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The Sharks were playing their first of what will surely be at least a few games without center Logan Couture, and are still in the hunt for a Pacific Division title with four of their six remaining games against Edmonton and Calgary – teams they are trying to fend off to earn home ice in the first round. And, of course, they ended a wretched six-game losing streak in which they never had a lead in any of the defeats.

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned earlier in the week that the coaching staff had challenged the depth players to do more, especially now that their second line center is out indefinitely. The response on Tuesday included two goals from Chris Tierney (including a late game-tying score), one goal and one assist from Jannik Hansen, a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson, two assists from Mikkel Boedker, and an assist from Tomas Hertl.

Consider the challenge met.

“We want to score. All the depth guys know, and talked about stepping up,” Tierney said. “It's good that we broke through tonight, especially with Logan out of the lineup. We're going to have to keep doing it throughout the playoffs."

DeBoer said the internal challenge “didn’t involve much more than just ‘Hey, we need some contributions from you.’ We can’t always look to the big guys to get the job done. We got that tonight. Those guys got on the board. It’s never a lack of effort with that group, but we’re the sum of our parts. We need those guys to get on the board for us on a regular basis and they did that tonight.”

It was also surely welcomed that one of their big guys – perhaps their biggest – got the overtime winner. Brent Burns had been mired in a 16-game drought without a goal, but his slap shot got through Henrik Lundqvist half-a-minute into an overtime power play.

While the depth guys will need to continue to produce, the Sharks are going to need more from Burns, too, as the postseason approaches. The defenseman had been kept off of the scoresheet in nine of 10 games from March 5 – 21, but now has one point in each of his last three games. That’s a good sign.

Getting a goal was particularly nice, as was ending the losing skid.

“Yeah on both accounts,” Burns said. “That was a big win, especially coming back, staying resilient, getting that big goal there at the end.”

Still, with all that went right, the game was far from perfect. The Sharks allowed a 3-1 second period lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit in just a span of five minutes and seven seconds, indicating they’re still a bit fragile. Derek Stepan made it 3-2 late in the second with a power play goal, Jesper Fast scored on a deflection early in the third, and J.T. Miller gave New York its first lead of the night less than five minutes into the final frame.

“There’s still room for improvement, definitely,” Joe Pavelski said.

Still, the Sharks fought back for Tierney’s late game-tying goal with less than two minutes in regulation, setting up Burns’ overtime heroics. 

The captain sensed some displeasure from the home fans due to the blown lead, something he surely understood, but indicated that the energy level on the Sharks’ bench was still high.

“Whether you think, like, ‘Here we go again’ or not – I’m sure someone in this building thought that tonight,” Pavelski said. “Guys just kind of stuck with it, and we believed we would tie it up tonight.”

Getting that extra point in overtime brought a sense of relief.

“When you lose six straight, it's obviously a relief when you win one,” Martin Jones said. “But win or lose, we played a lot better tonight.”

 

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Despite blowing a two-goal lead, the Sharks found a way to tie their game with the Rangers late and win it in overtime, 5-4, to end their losing streak at six games.

After New York had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, Chris Tierney knotted the score with just 2:15 left in regulation. Mikkel Boedker’s shot from high in the zone rattled around the slot, and Tierney was there to flip it home for this second of the night.

Brent Burns ended a 16-game goal drought with a power play goal at 3:10 in overtime, overpowering Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot.

After Tierney had given San Jose a 3-1 lead earlier in the second period the Sharks kept up the pressure, recording seven of the next eight shots. But Patrick Marleau’s interference penalty on Jimmy Vesey gave New York a late power play and turned the game in their favor.

Derek Stepan – who was stopped on a partial breakaway midway through the first period – brought the Rangers back to within 3-2. Mats Zuccarello hummed a seam pass through Justin Braun to Stepan, who had an open net to deposit his 16th of the season in the final minutes of the second period.

In the third, Jesper Fast redirected a Brady Skjei floater at 1:24, tying the game at 3-3. A Burns tripping minor during four-on-four play offered a power play to the Rangers, and they capitalized on a J.T. Miller one-timer at 4:44, his second of the night.

The Sharks remain two points back of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and are tied with Edmonton for second.

For the first time in eight games the Sharks struck first. A newly configured third line of Tomas Hertl, Boedker and Jannik Hansen scored on its first shift together, as Hansen chopped in a loose puck at 1:44. Boedker and Hertl both got assists, ending pointless streaks of 10 games and 12 games, respectively.

Hansen’s first goal as a Shark also gave the team its first lead in more than two weeks, as it never led throughout its six-game regulation losing streak.

The Rangers tied it at 13:30 of the first on a goal by Miller, who took the puck from Paul Martin along the wall and lifted a perfectly placed wrist shot over Martin Jones’ near shoulder.

Melker Karlsson, returning from an eight-game absence, put the Sharks ahead 2-1 late in the first period with a shorthanded score. He whizzed a wrist shot past countryman Lundqvist at 18:01 while on a two-on-one with Tierney.

Tierney increased the lead to 3-1 in the middle frame, taking a shot from the slot and following up his own rebound at 11:38. It was just his second goal in the last 22 games, and eighth of the year.

The Rangers won the only other game of the season series back on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. The Sharks finished the season with a 21-7-4 mark against Eastern Conference clubs.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture, who is out indefinitely with a facial injury.

Special teams:
Two of New York’s goals came on the power play, on three opportunities. The Sharks are 11-for-15 on the PK in the last six games.

San Jose had just one power play before overtime, failing to score. Karlsson’s marker was his second shorthanded score of the season, and the Sharks’ seventh as a team.

In goal:
After allowing a career high seven goals-against on Saturday in Nashville, Jones made 24 saves on 28 shots.

Lundqvist suffered the loss with 30 saves on 35 shots.

Lineup:
Micheal Haley served a one-game suspension for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday.

Tierney (upper body) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (flu) both returned after missing Saturday’s game with the Predators. Marcus Sorensen came out of the lineup for Kevin Labanc, who was recalled on Tuesday morning and skated on the top line.

New York’s Skjei had three assists.

Up next:
The Sharks have six games remaining in the regular season – two each against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

A three-game road trip against each of those division rivals begins on Thursday with the Oilers, as the clubs battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and continues on Friday against the Flames and Sunday versus the Canucks.