SAN JOSE, Calif.
Todd McLellan still was unable to return to his duties behind the Sharks bench Thursday night, but assistant coach Jay Woodcroft said his boss is improving and involved with behind-the-scenes planning.
The game against the Buffalo Sabres was the second McLellan has missed since being hit by the blade of a hockey stick Sunday during San Jose’s 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild. The coach is dealing with concussion-like symptoms.
“He’s getting better each and every day,” said Woodcroft, whose history with McLellan goes back to their days together in Detroit before both came to San Jose in 2008. “He’s feeling better, and Matt and I consult with him every day,” he said, referring to assistant coach Matt Shaw. “We’re in touch with him, he’s coming into our building, and he’s a big part of our game plan.”
The Sharks are not providing access to their coach as he recovers from getting hit by the stick of Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, who was checked into the boards in front of the Sharks bench.
Woodcroft said the team’s performance in the 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night reflected how the players are reacting to McLellan’s absence.
“I think you saw our team response in the last game,” Woodcroft said. “They knew we were missing our leader, but our leadership group, in terms of players really stepped up.”
Dominic Moore played his first game on home ice since being acquired by the Sharks from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 16. The third-line center had missed the past four games after a lower body injury that occurred when he blocked a shot against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Logan Couture missed his second game with an unspecified lower body injury suffered in Sunday’s game against Minnesota. He practiced with the team during the morning skate but was kept out of the lineup and is considered day to day.
Both Douglas Murray and Marty Havlat also practiced with the team, though their return dates are less certain.
Murray, who is waiting for the green light from team doctors, had his Adam’s apple fractured by a puck Feb. 16, and any swelling could severely limit his ability to breathe.
The injury is an odd one, but Murray said he hasn’t done any research into it.
“I don’t want to have any hang-ups in my head about things being more dangerous,” he said. “I put all my faith in the doctors, and I trust them that they’ll protect me.”
Havlat is recovering from Dec. 21 surgery to repair a partly torn hamstring tendon. His skating has reached the point where he is attempting the tight turns and quick stops and starts required during any game, but more work needs to be done before he can play.
Forward James Sheppard is on a conditioning assignment with the Worcester Sharks. A former Minnesota Wild first-round pick obtained by San Jose last summer, Sheppard tore up his knee in a 2010 all-terrain vehicle accident and has spent the past six months recovering from a second round of surgeries.
Joe Thornton was named Sharks player of the month for February, with 18 points in 14 games.
Benn Ferriero and Andrew Desjardins were healthy scratches against the Sabres.
SAN JOSE, Calif.