Jabber Jaws: Couture, Boughner on Ryan Merkley

Quotes from Logan Couture and Bob Boughner’s pre-game media availability cover Merkley, COVID Protocol and how the team has fared the last few games.

Ahead of tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner and captain Logan couture spoke to the media about the line-up, injury and COVID updates and how they’re preparing for the game.

Boughner confirmed that Couture and Lane Pederson are out of COVID Protocol and will be available to play tonight. Jonah Gadjovich and James Reimer have been placed on injured reserve, with Reimer retroactive to the date of the injury, making him available (and likely ready to go) as of tomorrow. They’re taking time with Reimer, noting that he’s played a lot of hockey and they don’t want to be in a situation where he progresses backwards. Gadjovich, meanwhile, is out at least a week, possibly week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

Couture was all smiles and giggles as he detailed his five-day quarantine and how the team fared in his absence.

Here’s what else the two had to say this afternoon:

Bob Boughner

On Ryan Merkley earning a roster spot: Ryan’s in there because he deserves to be in there. I thought he played a couple good games for us on the road trip. I want to make this a challenge every night. It shouldn’t be a given who’s playing, and he’s really pushed some guys that were ahead of him.

He helps us on the power play. You saw in Philly, when his unit went out there, he moved it well. Trying to find a spot for him, Karly and Burnzie to work is a little bit of a challenge, but we’ve got a couple different ideas for tonight.

Generally, not just ‘cause the power play, his 5-on-5 game was good. He didn’t give up much, he moved pucks, he helps us with our possession. We’re always looking for more offense from our line-up.

[...] It’s that commitment to better D, and more details. I guess the knock would be [that] earlier on — last year, or training camp — he needs more time. He’s still got to work on his details defensively. And I think he’s done that. It’s not perfect yet, but there’s a lot of things that he’s done really well to work on his game.

On our backend, where we struggle a bit is some giveaways on our breakouts and possession, clean possession. I think he helps us with both of those. He sees the ice, he’s a calming effect back there. He’s getting better, he’s improving and he deserves to be playing again.

On having an offensive right-side D: The three righties is big for me. We talk about certain guys playing their off-side and some guys can do it, but they’re never as good as when they’re on the right side. That allows us to have three puck-moving defensemen in the line-up. If you look at our left side ... we can use different guys in different situations now. I think Megna has been great for us, too.

It is nice to have three righties and three lefties, just for the ease of moving pucks and getting guys off their backhand and in the offensive zone, same thing. Picking pucks off the wall and taking it two or three steps to the middle and getting pucks to the net, that’s a skill, and it’s tough to do that on your off-side.

On Radim Simek’s recovery: No setback. We looked at it, saying, “We want Ryan Merkley in there.” I thought Megna’s played well, as well. But Simmer, let’s be honest, he’s had one practice since the game in Buffalo, and that was yesterday. That was his first time on the ice.  I’d like to get him a couple practices and get him ready for Thursday, if he feels that — and see how we do as a team, you know, there’s decisions to be made every day, but that was basically it. He’s only been on the ice once yesterday for 35 minutes since Buffalo.

On COVID Protocol moving forward: No hiding that [it’ll be easier to have fewer tests going forward]. We still have a few guys that haven’t got [COVID] yet — and who knows, knock on wood they don’t — but yeah, you get guys that hopefully have a little bit of I guess ‘herd immunity’ in our room. And the other fact is that they don’t have to test. They’ve still got to follow other protocols, and masking, and making sure that no one has symptoms and all the other things that we’re under, but [less testing] definitely helps.

After 90 days, we’re gonna have to be back into [testing].

Logan Couture

On being on Protocol on the road: Lonely. I got to know my hotel room pretty well — not very big there. [Laughs] But I got through it. I didn’t feel sick at all, wouldn’t have known that I had anything, which is a good thing. Basically the best outcome is to feel healthy. I feel good, ready to go, happy to be on the ice with the guys.

You certainly miss it when you’re not around — the guys, the team and just the atmosphere. I was happy to see them play extremely well in Philadelphia and win the game in Buffalo. It makes it easier when you’re not playing and the team wins and guys play well. So, sitting there watching game smiling when we’re winning.

[...] I was texting with Pedey throughout the game, and Bones in the Philly game, just really happy for the guys. Individual performances, obviously Tommy was incredible, Timo played great. But as a team, just finding a way to win those games shows a lot of character about the guys in the room. Obviously we’re short on bodies for what we thought out of camp it would be, and other guys have stepped in and played well and played big minutes. Definitely proud of the guys watching ‘em.

On the best moment of quarantine: When I was leaving, the Packers were actually leaving to go to the arena on that Sunday from our hotel. [Laughing] So I saw them, which was a highlight of my five-day quarantine.

On the COVID Protocol process: I feel good. I haven’t had any symptoms, and I just got the word this morning that I’m good to go, so I came to the rink and got on the ice. That’s basically it.

I tried to do some sit-ups and push-ups [in the hotel room] — didn’t get too many sit-ups in, I got a few push-ups. I’ve heard I need to work on my upper-body, so I really focused on those.

[...] No testing for 90 days, so that takes us through to March, I believe, or April. That’s a positive way to look at it. I know there’s other guys that have gone the last month or so, two months, without testing, but who knows what the Protocols are gonna be in a few weeks to a few months with this variant.

On when Tomas Hertl started becoming a leader in the room: Probably once his English got a little bit better. [Laughs] I think the first couple years, he was yelling, but it was tough to understand exactly what he was saying. So since his English has been better, he feels more comfortable speaking his mind.

He’s an extremely talented player. He’s playing elite hockey right now. We’re happy to have him. Hopefully he continues.

On Ryan Merkley playing tonight: Very talented. From Day 1, I’ve seen Merks — the talent, it seeps out of him. He makes such elite plays with the puck. His game has shown growth that he’s defending, and taking pride in defending. He’s played great. Given the opportunities that he’s been given, he’s come in and taken those roles upon himself and performed well.

On Kane’s contract termination: I haven’t really paid any attention to it. I was away from the team when that happened, so I haven’t really talked to any of the guys about it. I don’t really have any comment on it.

*Lightly edited for clarity.