After a dismal first half of the season, the San Jose Sharks were a long shot to make the NHL playoffs.
The odds got longer when captain Logan Couture suffered a reported fractured ankle in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at the St. Louis Blues. He will miss about six weeks, according to a report from TSN.
San Jose returns home after a five-game trip (2-2-1) to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Couture, who leads the Sharks with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists), was helped off the ice midway through the second period on Tuesday. He and the Blues’ Vince Dunn collided, and Couture went awkwardly into the end boards.
“He’s a catalyst of our offense, penalty kill and everything,” Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said before the report of Couture missing six weeks. “When a guy like that goes down, everybody is very shocked.”
The Sharks (19-22-4), who fired coach Pete DeBoer on Dec. 11 and are in 13th place in the Western Conference, rank 27th in the league with an average of 2.64 goals per game.
Veteran Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said it will be difficult to replace Couture.
“It’s going to give guys more opportunity to play more minutes, and everybody’s going to have to pick it up,” Marleau said. “Obviously, (Couture) is our captain, our leader, and one of our best players, so it’s a big hole to fill. There’s opportunity for everybody to kind of pull things along for him.”
Tomas Hertl will likely take Couture’s spot centering the top line with Marleau and Evander Kane.
“Sometimes the team comes together missing one of our top players. We just come together, we just work hard and we will get some wins,” Hertl said. “We’ll see what happens. We can talk right now, but we still have a lot of good players.”
The Blue Jackets extended their league-leading road point streak to nine games (6-0-3) with a 4-3 victory Tuesday at Anaheim.
“There’s no conversation about a streak. We’re just trying to ride it and play the right way,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “We have had to define playing as a team and getting points along the way. “
Zach Werenski scored twice and Pierre-Luc Dubois had three assists for the Blue Jackets.
“Found two goals late in the second period to take the lead, and from that point on, I think we felt pretty comfortable,” said Werenski, who entered Wednesday leading all NHL defensemen with 15 goals, one shy of the franchise record he shares with teammate Seth Jones. “Seems like every night we have a chance to win. It’s a lot of fun right now.”
A couple of milestones likely will be reached Thursday.
It will be the 1,302nd game of Tortorella’s coaching career, passing Mike Babcock for 12th on the league’s all-time list. And Sharks center Joe Thornton will play in his 1,612th game, tying Ray Bourque for 11th in league history.
–Field Level Media