Couture making his mark

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Logan Couture tries to prepare for every game against the division rival Oshawa Generals like he would any other, but it's not easy.

Every time Couture and the Ottawa 67's line up versus John Tavares and the Generals -- as they will tomorrow in Ottawa -- Couture faces the kid who knocked him from first-overall status in the Ontario Hockey League draft.

"It's a little thing in the back of my mind," Couture said. "But everyone else looks at it as any other game, so that's what I try to do too."

When Tavares, who has since turned 15, was deemed an exceptional player by the OHL and made eligible for the draft last spring, Couture thought long and hard about his hockey future. There was speculation Couture, who easily would have been the first pick if not for the Tavares ruling, would go the U.S. college route. But the 67's decided to take a chance and chose Couture with the 12th pick.

Of the 20 players taken in the first round last May, only Tavares, with 47 points, has more than the 37 (17 goals and 20 assists) Couture has recorded.

"There was a risk and it was warranted to take it," 67's general manager/coach Brian Kilrea said. "We know we're lucky. When you are drafting 12th, you just don't expect to get a player like him. He reminds me of Alyn McCauley. He's very sure in his own end, and he's never up by the blue line. You don't usually see that in a 16-year-old."

Billeting with veterans Derek Joslin and Chris Hulit has made Couture's off-ice adjustment easier, and it took no time to get adjusted on the ice.

"I don't think it could have worked out any better for me," Couture, a 6-foot, 180-pound centre, said. "It's going so well because I have been getting an opportunity to play all the time. From that I get a lot of confidence."

BRIEFLY

Steve Downie of the Peterborough Petes will return to the lineup tonight against the Generals after serving a five-game suspension for attacking Andrew Gibbons of the Belleville Bulls ... Wojtek Wolski's seven points against the Erie Otters on Sunday was a club record for the Brampton Battalion in one game.

RANGERS 4, ICEDOGS 2

In Mississagua, Justin Azevedo continued his recent hot streak, scoring three goals to power the Kitchener Rangers to a victory over the Mississauga IceDogs.

The 17-year-old centre scored once in the first period and added two more less than three minutes apart late in the second period.

"I've been getting some lucky bounces lately, but I'll take them," said Azevedo, who has scored 12 goals in 11 games in 2006. "It's all about practising because that's where you develop the scoring mentality. And I've got a lot of confidence in myself lately."

STORM 3, OTTERS 1

In Erie, Pa., -- Ryan Callaghan scored twice, including the shorthanded game winner early in the third period.

Callaghan, who leads the Storm with 32 goals on the season, beat Erie netminder Ryan Ludzik on a breakaway less than a minute into the third as Guelph (30-15-0-2) won its second consecutive game. He added a power-play goal with a minute left in regulation.

Kelsey Wilson added a single for the Storm, who went 2-for-5 with the man advantage.

-- With files from CP


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