Logan taking centre stage

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Logan Couture's career with the 67's has been filled with disappointment.

The mono that kept him out of 14 games in his second year. The three concussions that sidelined him for 17 games last year. The failure to get past the first round of the playoffs all three years.

"I have high hopes," Couture, the 67's top centre, said in between workouts yesterday as training camp got under way at the Civic Centre. "I've looked around the (Eastern) conference and I don't think any one team is going to run away and take it. No one sticks out. Our goal is to win the division. (Then) I'd like to see us get past the first round. It seems I'm going home at the start of April every year.

"I remember (the spring of '05) being here and seeing the team in the playoffs, the way the city was. It was crazy. The place was packed. And it was loud."

For those days to be relived, the 67's will need a healthy Couture. That is, if he winters in Ottawa at all. A first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2007, he'll leave for their camp Sept. 11. Unlike his first such experience last year, he doesn't already have a plane ticket for a flight back.

"(GM) Doug Wilson just told me to come down and try to make the team," said Couture. "That's what I'm going to do."

Because he's only 19, there will be no middle ground. If Couture doesn't crack the Sharks' lineup, he will be returned to junior hockey.

While he'll wish his star luck, 67's coach/GM Brian Kilrea knows his team would be in trouble without Couture.

"Any time you lose a fellow who is going to have 100 points, you'd suffer," said Kilrea, whose team had offensive problems year. "We'd suffer. Hopefully, the other guys would pick up their game."

Those guys include Mike Latta and Ryan Martindale.

The two top picks of 2007, Kilrea wants both to be able to play their natural, centre-ice position. But it's hard to imagine one of the two being relegated to third-line ice time.

MAKE THEIR POINTS

"They'll both be getting a much more prominent roles," said Kilrea. "With more experience, they won't panic as much with the puck. We certainly expect more points from them."

He's counting on only modest numbers from 2008 first-rounder Tyler Toffoli, who had 68 goals and 174 points in 83 games as a midget last year.

"Anywhere from 35 points to 45-50, max," said Kilrea. "You can't expect too much from him. He may not play in the key situations he did last year, like the power play and the point. But if he can make our power play better, he'll certainly be out there."

And learning from the likes of Couture. If Couture is back, there's a good chance he'll be captain. He'll also be trying to get off to a quick start to enhance his chances of making the national junior team. And this season he has no concussion concerns whatsoever.

"I took a couple of weeks off (after the third) and saw a specialist in London," he said. "She gave me a timetable to get back, and it really helped.

"I don't think I'll be going out there hoping I don't get another concussion. You can't play the game being scared about getting hurt."


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