Sharks notes: Couture fine; Stuart's return successful

Sharks notes: Couture fine; Stuart's return successful
March 24, 2014, 10:15 pm
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The rust part of it is going to come, but he was better than I thought he would be.
Todd McLellan on Brad Stuart

It was unlikely that Logan Couture’s injury was of the devastating variety, after the center tried to return in the second period only to retreat to the dressing room again after a single shift.

Still, Todd McLellan’s pronouncement after that the game that Couture was “fine” after blocking a first period shot, and may even play on Tuesday in Edmonton, had to bring a huge sigh of relief to the Sharks’ fan base.

[RELATED: Couture hurt in Sharks' game vs. Flames]

Even though the Sharks managed to go 10-6-0 when Couture was out with a hand injury from Jan. 7 until after the Olympic break, the center is still arguably the team’s most important forward. Couture plays in every situation, has developed into one of the Sharks’ leaders off of the ice, and had 12 points in his previous 13 games before Monday.

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Brad Stuart’s return to the lineup was viewed as a success by head coach Todd McLellan. Paired with Justin Braun, the 34-year-old played 19 minutes and 57 seconds, including a game high three minutes and four seconds on the penalty kill. He was credited with two hits and one blocked shot.

“I thought he played well. He had some jump in his stride,” McLellan said. “The conditioning part of it looks really good. The rust part of it is going to come, but he was better than I thought he would be. That’s a real positive thing for us.”

It’s been a trying season for Stuart, who wasn’t able to train in the offseason due to injury, and missed all of training camp and the first two games. Last week, Stuart said that the extended time off could be a “blessing in disguise,” allowing him to build up some strength that he couldn’t in the offseason.

* * *

Stuart’s return meant Scott Hannan came out of the lineup for the first time since Jan. 30. The biggest defensive error of the night for the Sharks came from Matt Irwin, when the defenseman lost track of Joe Colborne just before he potted the Flames’ only goal of regulation in the second period.

“They had a little bit of motion, and one of our guys lost him,” said McLellan, without identifying Irwin by name. “Colborne made a good shot.”

[RELATED: Instant Replay: Sharks clinch playoff spot despite SO loss]

The Sharks played a strong first and third period, but the second was their downfall in the 2-1 shootout loss, according to McLellan.

“We were like a yo-yo, I thought. We were very good in the first, and had a pretty successful formula going. A good game plan, and executing it.

“In the second, I said to our guys we were like lab rats. We wanted to try and new way and see if it would work, and obviously it didn’t. In the third, we got back to it, but we wasted 20 good minutes turning pucks over and playing in our end. A lot of energy was expended just to survive and get pucks out, and we weren’t on the attack. In the third, we got it again.”