Nothing taints the excitement that comes with a Day 1 of training camp quite like the team's best player limping off the ice after aggravating a relatively fresh, rather scary injury.
So as casual as he may be about it, you can imagine there's a significant feeling of relief for a coach when he finds out the damage from the incident he just witnessed was minimal at most.
"I don't think he has to worry," Brian Kilrea said of the fact Logan Couture's scrimmage was cut short -- and the 67's top centre will likely miss a day of participation if he misses any time at all -- as the 67's left the ice for the first time since the spring. "It's not like this training camp will determine if he makes the team."
More likely Killer's about to decide the coaching profession's not for him.
COULD GO NO. 1
Rated by scouts as the No. 1 prospect for the 2007 NHL draft -- and by the way, if he holds that position for 10 months he'll become the first 67 to go first overall since Bobby Smith was grabbed by the Minnesota North Stars in 1978 and only the third (Denis Potvin in 1973 was the other) ever -- Couture had his left knee sliced open at the under-18 camp in Calgary last month.
With about five seconds left in a game, he dropped to block a shot, and while down, a guy trying to jump over him didn't make it all the way.
Couture needed 29 stitches -- 11 on the outside, 18 on the inside -- to close a gash that was directly on the muscle. Fortunately, there was no ligament damage
"Should be okay," the 17-year-old from London, Ont., said of yesterday's mishap. "I got hit on the knee and it was right on the cut."
Figuring he's at about "85%" right now, Couture is unlikely to be content sitting on the sidelines for long.
At the same time, Kilrea obviously won't rush his return. He has Couture penned in on a line with wingers Jamie McGinn and Matt Lahey. Not only is it expected to be one of the better units in the league this season, but McGinn just turned 18 and the other two still have a lot of living to do before celebrating that birthday.
It'll be fun for 67's fans to watch that line develop.
"Hopefully we're together for a couple of more years, at least," said Couture.
About to begin Grade 11 at Hillcrest High School, Couture has a huge year ahead of him. The pressures of leading a 67's offence lacking in proven weapons will be combined with showing the continuous following of scouts he's a consistent, top performer.
Meanwhile, Couture just shrugs off the heat on his shoulders.
"It doesn't really affect me," he said of the attention that's on its way. "I've been there before (heading into the OHL draft) and I know the NHL is bigger, but my focus will be on my game. I just want to go out shift after shift and try to play consistently, to help the team win."
Kilrea says that Couture is "as dedicated as any player I've had," which says tons.
Couture, though, isn't devoting himself entirely to the goal of being drafted first overall next June.
"I just want to go in the first round," he said. "If I do, I'm one team's first pick. But first overall, fifth overall .... wherever. It'll be somewhere, and it'll be amazing."
ICE CHIPS: Standouts in yesterday's opening scrimmages included C Scott Pitt, who had three goals, and D Kevin Mole, a draft pick of the 67's in 2005. "I thought he did a real good job ... he moves the puck," Kilrea said of Mole, who played Tier II in Brampton last season. "He's been here (at camp) before and the difference shows." Of Pitt, Kilrea said: "He worked hard, as he does all the time. He scored three goals, you had to be impressed with Scott Pitt." ... The 67's are back on the ice this morning and tomorrow (9-11 a.m.) and this afternoon (2:30-4 p.m.). Sunday (10 a.m.-noon) will be the final scrimmage before last cuts are made. The public is welcome and admission is free.