Sharks' Couture likely out vs. Canucks with concussion

The San Jose Sharks have struggled to score for most of the season and may be without their most productive player until after Christmas.

Logan Couture is not expected to be in the lineup Thursday night when the Sharks face the sliding Vancouver Canucks in the opener of a three-game homestand.

Couture suffered a concussion after being hit by Alexander Burmistrov in Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to Vancouver and did not suit up in Monday's 5-3 setback to the Edmonton Oilers in the finale of a three-game Western Canada swing.

"It's tough," San Jose's Joe Thornton told the team's official website. "He's obviously a very important player for us and losing a guy like that is definitely going to hurt us. Guys just have to step up. It happens like that in every locker room, important guys go down and different guys step up, so we just have to have the same in here."

Couture leads the Sharks with 15 goals and 26 points. Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Chris Tierney are tied for second with eight goals apiece.

San Jose coach Peter DeBoer told the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday that "it probably makes the most sense" to hold out Couture until after Christmas, but also said "we'll see how he feels (Thursday)."

DeBoer's team is 26th in the league in goals per game with 2.72, just ahead of the Canucks, who are 28th (2.66).

However, San Jose (17-11-4) may not miss Couture immediately. He is one of three Sharks with a team-high two goals versus Vancouver (15-16-4) this season along with Tierney and Brent Burns.

After being limited to eight assists in his first 20 games, Burns has caught fire with multipoint games in five of his last six contests. Since Nov. 24, the 2017 Norris Trophy winner leads all defensemen with 14 points, including six goals.

DeBoer did not say who would start in goal to open the homestand.

Starter Martin Jones is 11-8-3 with a 2.62 goals-against average and two shutouts this season, but 1-3-2 with a 4.08 GAA in six starts this month and still one win short of 100 for his career. The native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, is on a personal three-game losing streak in which he's been reached for 12 goals.

Backup Aaron Dell (6-5-1, 1.75 GAA, .939 save percentage) made 41 saves in a 5-0 win over Vancouver on Nov. 11, and has won four consecutive starts in which he's stopped 118 of 122 shots. That includes a 25-save performance in a 5-0 win over the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 9.

San Jose has outscored Vancouver 11-2 in a three-game winning streak at SAP Center.

The Canucks are trying to avoid their seventh loss in eight games. Vancouver's struggles continued with a 7-5 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday despite a hat trick as part of a four-point night from Thomas Vanek.

"There's nothing sweet about it," said Vanek, who is tied with the injured Bo Horvat (broken ankle) for second on the team with 10 goals. "We're really struggling right now. We need points, and tonight I thought we deserved at least a point. ... But, again, we just gave up too many goals."

Jacob Markstrom (9-11-3, 2.71 GAA, one shutout) and Anders Nilsson (6-5-1, 3.39 GAA) have both played poorly in recent weeks. Markstrom is 1-3-0 with a 4.29 GAA and .848 save percentage in his last four starts, while Nilsson is 0-3-0 with a 5.16 GAA and .871 save percentage in his last four games (three starts).

The Canucks have yielded at least three goals in each of their last six road games, posting a 1-4-1 record.

One bright spot for Vancouver is Brock Boeser, who is quickly emerging as the team's top player. The 20-year-old Minnesota native leads the club and all rookies with 18 goals -- including six on the power play -- and 32 points.

Meanwhile, veteran Henrik Sedin has eight assists in a five-game points streak, and 13 helpers in his last 10 games. Sedin and twin brother, Daniel, each had three assists while Markus Granlund notched two goals in the Canucks' win over San Jose last week.
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