Sharks hold on to 67's Couture

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

While one Shark already swam his way back upstream to Ottawa, the 67's could be waiting some time yet for another.

That is, if he returns at all.

Weeks after being named Brian Kilrea's captain for the 2008-09 season, Logan Couture's odds of cracking San Jose's NHL roster improved when second-year Sharks centre Torrey Mitchell suffered a broken leg in a scrimmage last Sunday.

Mitchell, who as a rookie scored 20 points and emerged as one of the Western Conference team's top penalty killers, is expected to miss at least the first five weeks of the season.

Meanwhile, the Sharks have returned stalwart defenceman Julien Demers to the 67's. Demers is expected to be in the lineup for Ottawa's home opener tomorrow night against the Belleville Bulls.

Yesterday, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said the list of candidates to fill Mitchell's roster spot include NHL veteran Jeff Friesen, who is with the Sharks on a free-agent tryout, 2001 first-rounder Marcel Goc, and former Clarkson Golden Knight Steve Zalewski.

Wilson said that the 19-year-old Couture is also in the running for the job.

"Logan has had a very good camp," Wilson said before climbing aboard a team flight headed to Anaheim and the the Sharks first pre-season game. "We've been very impressed with his game. He played very well in the rookie tournament and we feel very strongly about him as a player.

"We're about to play the first of seven exhibition games, and we're going to give everybody an opportunity. We've always had younger players make our team. We're very impressed with Logan. He's a very good hockey player, a smart hockey player and he has trained hard. We're very pleased with his progress."

An obvious fan of Kilrea-trained players, Wilson has drafted six 67's since 2004 and brought in others, including rugged defenceman Brad Staubitz, as free agents.

"Jamie McGinn has had a very good camp also," said Wilson, referring to Kilrea's captain of a year ago. "At this point, Staubitz has looked really good. Lukas Kaspar has played well and so has Derek Joslin. All the (former) 67's have stepped it up."

Losing Couture a year earlier than expected would have an obvious impact on the 67's, who are counting on the ninth pick of the 2007 NHL entry draft to lead their team in scoring and be their most important player. Nonetheless, Kilrea is remaining true to form in wishing nothing but the best for Couture.

"I have no idea what's going to happen," said Kilrea. "If he's returned, he's returned. Whatever happens, happens.

"Certainly, it would affect our game because he's such a great player. But that's what they hope to be, NHL players. If that's what happens, we're happy for Logan."

The 67's are also without defenceman Tyler Cuma. Minnesota's first pick in June's entry draft is still with the Wild.


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