NHL

Sharks' Couture out with injury

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)

San Jose Sharks rookie Logan Couture sat out practice Monday after leaving the previous game following a hard fall into the boards, but is relieved his injury is not nearly as serious as he originally feared.

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Couture left Saturday's game against St. Louis early in the second period. He slammed hard into the boards and appeared to hurt his right leg. He had to be helped off the ice by teammates and is listed as day to day with a lower-body injury.

''It was scary,'' he said. ''I went in there and tried to stop. I don't even know if anyone touched me. The way my leg went in, it didn't feel very good. I wanted to get up. I was trying to but the ref came over and said to stay down. There wasn't much feeling in my leg. As soon as I got off the ice it started to feel better. I was able to put pressure on it. It wasn't as bad as it looked.''

Couture said he is feeling much better than he thought he would two days after the injury and hoped to be back on the ice to practice on Tuesday. He did not rule out playing Wednesday night against Calgary, although the Sharks may be hesitant to rush him back with the start of the playoffs just over three weeks away.

''I don't like sitting out games,'' he said. ''If I'm healthy. I want to play. That's how I am. I've sat out enough games in my junior career and last year a bit and a couple of games this year. It's not fun. I want to be back on the ice.''

Couture has been one of San Jose's most consistent players all season and one of the leading contenders to win the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. Couture is second on the team with 27 goals, the most ever by a rookie in franchise history, to go along with 21 assists. He is also tied for the team lead with a plus-15 rating as he has been strong on both ends of the ice.

His eight game-winning goals are two off Alex Ovechkin's league-leading total and one shy of the rookie record set by Steve Larmer in 1982-83 for Chicago.

''He's a big part of our team, as is everybody,'' said assistant coach Trent Yawney, who ran practice with head coach Todd McLellan traveling back from his brother-in-law's funeral in Saskatchewan. ''You don't want to be losing guys at this time of year. It's encouraging. I'm glad to hear he is feeling better.''

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Couture's injury happened at almost the same spot on the ice where All-Star defenseman Dan Boyle took an awkward fall the previous game. That also initially looked worse than it was, with Boyle thinking his season might be over when he first hit the ice. Instead, he was back on the ice just minutes later.

The Sharks did get two players back to the ice, with forward Scott Nichol practicing with the team for the first time since he was injured Feb. 19 against Colorado and defenseman Niclas Wallin back on the ice for the first time since he took a hard hit from Dallas' Jamie Langenbrunner last Tuesday.

Yawney said it was unlikely either player would be able to play Wednesday against the Flames.

''I don't know what our timetable is,'' Nichol said. ''We didn't take any contact or anything, just a little bit of pushing. Baby steps. We had white glove treatment on me. We'll see how it goes in the next week or so.''

After a lackluster start to the season, the Sharks are in good position heading into the stretch run. They lead the Pacific Division by three points over Phoenix and are third overall in the Western Conference with less than three weeks to go in the regular season.

But after hosting Calgary on Wednesday night, San Jose plays its final eight games against Pacific Division rivals. All five teams in the Pacific are in the top nine in the conference, with the Sharks just seven points ahead of last-place Dallas.

''You look at that three through eight and that can really change the next two weeks,'' said forward Dany Heatley, who will return Wednesday from a two-game suspension. ''You want to have the highest seed as possible obviously for home ice and things like that. As far as who your matchup is going to be, it's going to be a tough series no matter who it is. These last nine games are going to mean a lot.''

Tagged: Sharks, Dan Boyle, Logan Couture

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