SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Logan Couture feels like his game is improving, even though the goals and points aren’t there just yet.
The 27-year-old has just one assist in his last six games, and has gone without a goal for eight straight.
Couture has six points (2g, 4a) in 11 games for the season, but has yet to score an even-strength goal. Typically a guy that can be hard on himself, Couture didn’t express any panic on Friday morning, though. Rather, he pointed to his 10 shots in the last two games combined as a sign that he’s getting his looks.
“I feel like the last couple I’ve had a lot of chances,” he said. "It’s gotten better. I think I went through a couple games where it wasn’t up to par. That’s going to happen over an 82-game season, but I expect a lot out of myself, and obviously want to contribute offensively.”
Coach Pete DeBoer thought that in the first half of the Sharks’ 3-2 loss to Calgary on Thursday, that Couture was their best player. No heart-to-heart conversations are necessary with the alternate captain despite his scoring slump, either.
“He’s a seasoned pro, and he understands his own game better than anybody,” DeBoer said. “He’s out working on some things after practice. He’s gotten some really good looks that over the long term we know are going to go in.”
Faceoffs, though, continue to be an issue for Couture, as he’s just 45-for-129 on the season (34.9 percent). Among the 102 players in the NHL that have taken at least 80 draws, that’s dead last.
“I’ve struggled,” he admitted. “Those stats guys don’t always get it right, but obviously I’ve lost more than I’ve won, so it’s something that needs to improve.”
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Martin Jones has started 10 of 11 games, and he’ll presumably go against the Penguins on Saturday, too. His numbers are so-so, as he’s 5-5-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
Despite the rest that Jones benefited from in the second half of last season after the club acquired James Reimer, DeBoer isn’t concerned about wearing out his goalie in early November.
“We’re only 11 games into the season, so it’s not an awful lot of work. The way the schedule is laid out he hasn’t played a back-to-back yet,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think that fatigue or too many games at the 11-game mark is even a conversation point.”
At the same time, first-year backup Aaron Dell has played in just one game. It’s difficult to envision him getting in on Saturday or next Tuesday in Washington, so it will be at least another week before he sees any action. Even if he plays in Florida on Nov. 23, that’s a full 23 days after his previous start on Oct. 18 in Brooklyn.
“As far as keeping Aaron Dell fresh, that is something that [the coaches] have to talk about,” DeBoer said. “Like a lot of backups in this league, if you’re playing behind Carey Price or [Henrik] Lundqvist or one of those guys, you’ve got to keep yourself ready for when you get the opportunity to play.”
The Sharks have played just one of their 16 back-to-backs this season, with the next on Nov. 25-26.
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Tommy Wingels said he’s good to go for Saturday’s game against the Penguins. He blocked a shot midway through the second period against Calgary, returned to the bench for the third, but took just one shift.
The Sharks didn’t skate on Friday morning at their practice facility (other than the recent healthy scratches), so there was no indication on how DeBoer would line up his forwards against the Penguins. They were all jumbled up for the second half of the Flames game as the coach desperately tried to wake up his lethargic club.
DeBoer did, however, hold a team meeting at the practice facility, and some players had some one-on-ones with the coaches.
“Went over some clips that each player needs to look at and realize what they can do better,” Couture said.
DeBoer said: “For the most part, we’re an honest, hard-working group. Sometimes we need to have a tough conversation, but most of the time they don’t give me any reason to.”