Lodi News-Sentinel

Sharks captain perseveres as playoffs remain out of reach

- Curtis Pashelka

This hasn’t been an easy season for any member of the San Jose Sharks, who are careening toward a fourth straight spring without a chance to compete in the NHL playoffs.

But for Logan Couture, perhaps the most clutch playoff performer in Sharks history and one of the few remaining connection­s left to the franchise’s most successful era, it’s been especially difficult.

“It’s not an easy situation for him,” Sharks coach David Quinn said of Couture. “Certainly, the season hasn’t gone the way any of us thought it would. He’s voiced his frustratio­n to me on a couple of occasions.”

That, of course, doesn’t mean Couture hasn’t stopped competing. Few players love the Sharks organizati­on or care more about the team than Couture.

“I’ve only known him a short period of time but I’ve got so much respect for him,” Quinn said of Couture, now in his fourth season as the team’s captain. “He’s a true profession­al, he’s humble, he comes to the rink and works his ass off every day.”

Couture scored the game-winning goal and had the first five-point game of his NHL career Saturday as the Sharks survived a frantic final few minutes to earn a 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The victory snapped the Sharks’ four-game losing streak and allowed them to head into a 10-day break on a positive note.

“He really made sure that we weren’t going to lose tonight,” Quinn said.

Couture also had the primary assists on goals by Mikey Eyssimont, Alexander Barabanov, and Noah Gregor. He now has 42 points in 51 games, a .82 point per game average that’s his highest since the 2018-19 season when he had 70 points in 81 games.

That was also the last year the Sharks made the postseason, the time of year when Couture has usually taken his game to another level. In 101 playoff games from 2011 to 2019, Couture had 97 points, a total surpassed in that time by only one other player — Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.

For now, Couture can only help control how the Sharks do in the regular season, and his performanc­e Saturday was one to remember.

On Couture’s first goal, he received a pass from Barabanov and put a shot on Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith. But Penguins forward Rickard Rakell, trailing the play, crashed into DeSmith and took the puck with him across the goal line.

“It’s nice to see the puck going in,” Couture said. “Pucks just found the back of the net for us tonight. We’ve lost a lot of heartbreak­ers this year, so it’s good to see one go our way.”

Couture pumped his fist after the puck crossed the line, as the Sharks bounced back from a crushing 5-4 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.

“I’m not going to lie, it was tough going to sleep because you get (into Pittsburgh) late and you’re up for a few hours thinking about how that one (in Carolina) ended,” Couture said. “To the guys’ credit, we forgot about that one pretty quickly and rebounded well.”

Couture, with 19 goals, is also now on pace for his fourth career 30-goal season.

But the Sharks (15-25-11) remain in 13th place in the Western Conference, and changes to the roster are a near-certainty. Not only in the days and weeks ahead of the March 3 NHL trade deadline but also in the offseason as general manager Mike Grier continues to put his stamp on the organizati­on.

But Couture, who turns 34 in March, likely isn’t going anywhere, as he has said on multiple occasions that he wants to remain a Shark and be a part of the team’s turnaround. Couture also still has four years left on his eight-year, $64 million contract he signed with the Sharks that carries an average annual value of $8 million.

Couture remains the heartbeat of the Sharks, and there’s little question he’d love to lead the team back to where it once was.

“He blocked some big shots and he was great on the penalty kill as well,” Gregor said. “He’s our captain for a reason. He was unbelievab­le.”

 ?? NHAT V. MEYER/BAY AREA NEWS GROUP ?? Sharks captain Logan Couture skates on the ice wearing the Sharks’ 2022 jersey during an event for season ticket holders in San Jose on Sept. 14, 2022.
NHAT V. MEYER/BAY AREA NEWS GROUP Sharks captain Logan Couture skates on the ice wearing the Sharks’ 2022 jersey during an event for season ticket holders in San Jose on Sept. 14, 2022.

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