Cam Tucker

Couture has battled back from ‘catastrophic’ and ‘pretty scary’ injuries to lead Sharks

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Logan Couture has been forced to demonstrate his resilience on a number of occasions this season.

Trying to help the San Jose Sharks get back on even terms with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final is just the latest example.

Needing a win in Game 5 to extend the series back to San Jose, Couture delivered a clutch performance with a goal and three points. He wouldn’t be denied, as the Sharks now look to force a decisive seventh game for hockey’s ultimate prize.

“I just … don’t want the season to end. I wish I did it every game, but it’s a tough league to score in, to produce in,” he told reporters. “It’s nice when you’re able to help the team win some games. … We still have a challenge ahead of us.”

A challenge is what this entire season has been for Couture. A narrative come playoff time is about those players that overcome points of adversity in games, a series, the season or at times in their careers, or maybe even beyond that, on and off the ice.

Couture has personified that player driven to overcome the most difficult of times in attempt to win.

He missed 23 games after suffering a broken fibula during practice in October, an injury head coach Pete DeBoer described to reporters as “catastrophic.” No sooner did Couture return, then he was out of the lineup again after it was discovered he had a small arterial bleed in his right thigh.

“I think when he went down, we were 4-0. We had a great start to the season,” said DeBoer.

“We felt guys were slotted in the right spot. It was a catastrophic injury, it really was. There was talk at some points there he might miss up to six months. I think it was a blessing in disguise looking back at it now because it forced me to get to know the organization top to bottom. We tried a lot of young guys in different spots. (Tomas Hertl) played some center. We brought guys in. (Chris Tierney) had a chance to play.”

Couture admitted that second injury — to the same leg as the first injury, although he said the two weren’t related — was “pretty scary.”

“We flew back home and my leg just kept swelling bigger and bigger,” he said.

“So they had to stop the bleeding somehow. They were able to do that fortunately before it got worse. My leg was just continuously filling with blood and it could have gotten to the point where you don’t know what’s going to happen, if you’re going to lose your leg or die. So they caught it pretty quickly, which was good.”

Despite the injuries, Couture has come back and been one of the key reasons — both with production and leadership as an alternate captain, which DeBoer said Couture earned — to the Sharks’ regular season success and subsequent playoff run.

His 29 points leads all players in this post-season.

“It’s nice, but it’s a personal thing,” said Couture. “We’ve got bigger things that we’re looking at.”

 

Murray’s ‘calming influence’ on the Penguins hasn’t changed despite Game 5 loss

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PITTSBURGH — Matt Murray‘s slender frame has spent the last two months seemingly impervious to the increasingly massive weight on his shoulders.

Until Thursday. Skating onto the ice at Consol Energy Center with a chance to help the Pittsburgh Penguins raise the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup, the enormity of the moment – however briefly – may have gotten the best of the 22-year-old rookie.

Murray used phrases like “a little bit jittery” and “a little bit nervous” to describe the opening minutes of Pittsburgh’s 4-2 loss to San Jose in Game 5, a stretch when he allowed three goals on five shots as the Sharks earned a return trip to the West Coast for Game 6 on Sunday night thanks to 44 saves from goaltender Martin Jones.

“As a team we really settled down after a tough start but we came back and stayed resilient,” Murray said. “We played the way we needed to to win the game but their goalie stood on his head.”

Related: Pens rally behind Murray after second shaky effort

Something Murray has done at times during Pittsburgh’s run to the final, particularly after a rare bumpy patch. He has yet to drop consecutive starts during the playoffs, going 5-0 with a 1.76 goals against average in games following a loss. Having a team peaking in front of him – one that doesn’t think twice about stepping in front of shots before they ever make it to Murray – helps. So does Murray’s healthy self-confidence.

“I don’t think I played badly by any means,” Murray said.

Maybe, but Murray knows he’s at a portion of the season where being OK won’t be good enough. In the big picture, he has a very real shot at capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy given to the playoff MVP. His 14 wins during the postseason are one away from the NHL record for victories by a rookie.

Still, it’s not the number of goals Murray is giving up but the nature of them that’s a bit problematic.

There was Joel Ward‘s breakaway slap shot from the slot in Game 3 that set the stage for Joonas Donskoi‘s wrist shot from in overtime that gave the Sharks life. There was Brent Burns‘ opening goal on Thursday, a score that in some ways mirrored Donskoi’s winner, zipping past Murray’s right shoulder. There was Melker Karlsson‘s flip late in the first period that went through the same hole between left pad and his glove that Ward found.

Would Murray have liked to be sharper just three periods from a championship, a victory that would allow him to tie the NHL record for wins by a rookie goaltender in the playoffs? Of course. It didn’t happen, so the Penguins keep playing. He hasn’t lost much sleep since taking over in Game 3 of the opening round against the New York Rangers. He’s not going to start now.

“I thought they had a couple of lucky bounces,” he said.

Bounces he insists will not affect the way he approaches his job. He spent the first portion of the postseason in an odd sort of limbo while Marc-Andre Fleury recovered from a concussion. He surrendered the starting gig to Fleury for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, only to get it back immediately after Fleury was less than crisp in defeat. Murray was hardly rattled by the brief demotion, and ripped off four straight victories.

“One of the things we love about him is his demeanor,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He has a calming influence on the group.”

A sense of ease that belies the fact Murray has made all of 33 starts in the NHL. Unlike the emotive Fleury – who is not above good-naturedly giving the posts a grateful kiss when a puck caroms out of harm’s way – Murray is decidedly chill regardless of the circumstances.

He spends his down time at the driving range or scrolling through Netflix looking for something that catches his eye. He has a rule for what happens when he hits “play.” If he doesn’t like the first 10 minutes, he hits stop and moves on. It’s the same when things don’t go his way during a game. Though he prides himself on his ability to “turn it off” once he leaves the rink, if he finds his mind fixated on a certain thing, he’ll go for a walk to clear his head.

Maybe that’s why a cross-country flight to California isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a guy who had a neighborhood street named after him – for a day anyway – before Game 5. Given an extra day of rest, he’ll hit the reset button, probably see what’s on Netflix and take a deep breath.

The adrenaline will flow on Sunday night, just like it always does. If he can keep it under control, particularly early, he likes his chances.

“It’s just learning how to handle it the right way,” he said. “If you can kind of harness that and use it for the right reasons. Use that energy and feed off the crowd and stuff like that you’re going to be in good shape.”

Forsberg, Predators working to ‘pinpoint the range’ of term for next deal

DENVER, CO - MARCH 05:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on March 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Filip Forsberg led the Nashville Predators in goals and points this season, and, according to reports, the two sides are now working on a new deal.

The 21-year-old Forsberg is a pending restricted free agent at the end of his entry-level deal that came with a cap hit of $894,166, as per General Fanager.

In his second full NHL season, Forsberg scored 33 goals and 64 points in 82 games, improving on the impressive 26-goal, 63-point season he posted the previous year.

From The Tennessean:

According to agent J.P. Barry, who represents Forsberg, the two sides have maintained a regular dialogue and are “zeroing in on a term that we both want to work on.”

“There’s a range of contracts out there for players this age,” Barry said during a recent phone interview. “The longer-term ones, there’s several at the five-, six-year mark and there’s only a couple that go as far as eight, so we’re trying to pinpoint the range that’s the most comfortable to both of us.”

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet cited an unidentified agent as saying he bets that if a deal does get done, it would fall between Brandon Saad‘s $6 million AAV with Columbus and Vladimir Tarasenko‘s $7.5 million with St. Louis.

Forsberg’s production dipped in the playoffs with two goals and four points in 14 games, as the Predators were eliminated in the second round. He admitted following their series loss to San Jose that he was dealing with a back injury during the post-season.

President Obama: Gordie Howe defined hockey ‘for a lifetime’

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Tributes have been coming in all day for the legendary ‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe, who passed away Friday at the age of 88.

U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement on Friday, saying Howe “defined” the sport of hockey “for a lifetime.”

Obama’s full statement, as per NHL.com:

The list of hockey players who suited up in six different decades, including returning to the ice after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, is a short one: it starts and ends with Gordie Howe.

But the list of kids who skated around the pond until dark, picturing themselves passing, scoring, and enforcing like Howe, dreaming of hoisting the Stanley Cup like him – that one comprises too many to count. Howe’s productivity, perseverance, and humility personified his adopted hometown of Detroit, to which he brought four championships and which he represented as an All-Star more than 20 times. The greatest players define their game for a generation; over more than half a century on the ice, Mr. Hockey defined it for a lifetime. Michelle and I send our condolences to his sons and daughter, his family, and his loyal fans from Hockeytown to Hartford to Houston and across North America.

A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame with four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies and six Art Ross trophies, Howe played 25 of 26 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, before eventually playing one final NHL season in Hartford at the age of 51.

Remembering Gordie Howe:

Video: Dan Patrick reflects on the legacy of Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky: A legendary bond

NHL mourns loss of the ‘incomparable Gordie Howe’

Facts about Gordie Howe (that often feel like fiction)

 

Panthers move Marc Savard’s contract and a 2nd-round pick to Devils

Marc Savard, Peter Chiarelli
AP Photo
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The New Jersey Devils picked up a second-round pick in the 2018 draft and Marc Savard — and his contract — from the Florida Panthers in exchange for minor league forwards Graham Black and Paul Thompson in a trade Friday.

The 38-year-old Savard, who hasn’t played a game since the 2010-11 season due to concussion issues, has a cap hit of $4 million on his contract through 2016-17, as per General Fanager.

A year ago, his contract, which has a salary of $575,000 for the upcoming season, was traded from Boston to Florida in the deal involving Reilly Smith and Jimmy Hayes.

Black spent this season in the American Hockey League with the Albany Devils, scoring seven goals and nine points in 50 games. Thompson scored 13 goals and 35 points in 56 games with Albany, and played three games with New Jersey this season.