SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The San Jose Sharks are close to being a complete team again even without a couple of stars still over at the Olympics.
The Sharks returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since the Olympic break with a couple of key players back in the fold.
Star forward Logan Couture was back on the ice along with previously injured forwards Raffi Torres, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto as San Jose hopes to field a mostly healthy team for the final 23 games of the regular season.
Despite a litany of injuries, the Sharks are still fifth in the league in points with 80 and are seven points behind first-place Anaheim in the Pacific Division with one game in hand.
"We could be putting a group of players on the ice together for the first time this season," coach Todd McLellan said. "That can be a real good thing. It will also have to be a patient thing for our group. They are going to experience that level that they haven't been at yet. But we do have about six weeks to put it all together before we get to the real time of the year."
San Jose was without a few key cogs with forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and starting goalie Antti Niemi still in Sochi for the Olympics. Those players won't rejoin the team until next Wednesday in Philadelphia when the team holds its final practice before beginning the stretch run the following night against the Flyers.
The one key player the Sharks will be missing then as they try to catch Anaheim is rookie forward Tomas Hertl, who may not be back this season from a knee injury.
But the return of Couture and Torres especially should give the Sharks three dangerous lines that will be necessary if they are to make a long playoff run.
"I think with the exception of Hertl I think we're going to have the healthiest lineup we've had since the start of the year," said defenseman Dan Boyle, who used the time off to help heal his injured thumb. "That's good for us. This is going to be the team that's going to be taking us to the next level down the stretch."