67's hope Couture can put brakes on skid

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

As 67's owner Jeff Hunt led his front office staff to Edelweiss for a tubing/bonding excursion yesterday, Brian Kilrea and his players were embarking on their last multi-game road trip of the season.

Killer's crew has been going downhill lately, too.

How important is centre Logan Couture to the 67's?

"What's our record without him?" assistant coach Bert O'Brien asked rhetorically after practice at the Brian Kilrea Arena -- and just before the team embarked on a three-game tour with stops in Mississauga (tonight), Erie (tomorrow) and Brampton (Sunday).

"I kinda think everyone knows the answer to that," Kilrea added, his eyes rolling.

Yes, that they've lost all five games since Couture's been sidelined with a bruised knee is indeed a pretty fair hint. So naturally, it was an encouraging sign for the team's fortunes that he skated at what appeared to be full speed before climbing on the bus with his teammates.

While Couture said the knee felt like it was getting better, Kilrea wasn't jumping to conclusions.

"We'll find out (today) how he feels," he said about a 17-year-old who was considered the top prospect for the upcoming NHL draft before his season was sidetracked by mono. "It'll be a game time decision, as they say in the National League, and it'll be his decision, not mine."

As much as they'd like to get things turned around, it's not as though they're about to take the ice for Game 7 of a playoff series, either. With a dozen games left, the 67's are seventh in a conference that sees eight teams qualify for the post-season tournament.

HOLD SLIM EDGE

Before last night they were two up on the eighth-place Petes and four ahead of the ninth-place Battalion -- and had two games in hand on each.

You know what they say about games in hand, though.

They're about as good as skates without blades if you don't win 'em.

Doing his part and more to give the 67's a fighting chance in the 14 games this season Couture has missed has been left winger Jamie McGinn. The second round San Jose Sharks pick has 37 goals -- 17 more than any teammate. He also has 33 assists to make him the 67's top point getter and 25th among OHL scoring leaders.

"(McGinn has) picked up an awful lot of slack when Logan has been out," said Kilrea. "He has stepped up to be a leader. We thought he'd have those kind of numbers ... but we thought he'd have a healthy Logan to do it with.

"Not having him has probably made him better because he's had to work with different players."

McGinn admits he's felt extra weight on his shoulders.

"Logan's a big part of our team and our line," he said. "When he's not out there, you feel a lot of pressure. You have to play harder, you have to play better. I didn't do a good job of that the last three games. I ended the weekend all right, just didn't start it that way. The bounces weren't going my way."

RARE DROUGHT

The goal and assist he had in a 6-3 loss last Sunday to Mississauga ended a rare, three-game pointless drought for the 6-foot, 185-lb. Fergus product.

Though not yet signed to an NHL contract, Sharks GM Doug Wilson has to like the way McGinn is developing -- both his leadership qualities and his scoring touch.

McGinn says he'd like to come back next season with a signed contract in his back pocket, but he's also more concerned about the present.

"We have to bond as a team," he said. "We have a five-game losing streak and we have to stay positive in the dressing room. As long as we stay close, I think we'll be fine.

"I think we can play with anyone. We've beaten all the top teams this year. We know what we're capable of doing. We're young but we're talented. In the playoffs, anything can happen."


Videos

Photos