SAN JOSE — Sharks forward Logan Couture has five points in his last five games, but some of his most impressive plays of late have come when the puck wasn’t on his stick.
With the Sharks killing a penalty in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Nashville, Couture stepped in front of a slap shot from Predators defenseman Shea Weber. The puck went toward the boards, and Couture was temporarily hobbled by the sting from one of the NHL’s hardest shots.
The significance of Couture’s block, one of his two that game, did not go unnoticed by his coaches and teammates.
“You watch video around the league when guys penalty kill, and when we watch clips, guys shy away from Weber’s shot,” said forward Tommy Wingels, who was also on the ice for that Sharks penalty kill. “Logan’s not that type of player. That puck wasn’t getting by him.”
Couture is part of a Sharks penalty kill unit that was ranked ninth in the NHL at 83.7 percent before Monday’s games. San Jose has killed 19 of 21 power plays in the last eight games, and perhaps not by coincidence, the Sharks have a 7-1 record.
“If there’s a guy during a game to get the puck out of the zone, I’d pick Logan to do that,” Wingels said. “That’s what drives our penalty kill, and I think that’s why we’re having success. His up-ice pressure on the penalty kill drives power plays nuts.”
Couture and Joe Pavelski have been the Sharks’ two best shot blockers for the past four seasons. This year, they are the top two again, Pavelski with 40 and Couture with 38.
“A lot of it is just courage and wanting to be in the lane, and if you want to kill penalties, you have to do it,” Couture said. “That’s something our unit of penalty killers, we all know. Everyone on our unit blocks shots. … Part of being a hockey player.”
Couture also stood out for his defense in Thursday’s game against Minnesota, stopping a wraparound by forward Thomas Vanek and later breaking up an odd-man rush.
“Those are huge team building moments, to go along with the goal-scoring and all of that,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “That’s Shea Weber shooting, and Cooch is willing to be in the lane. When your catalysts do that, everyone else falls into place. They have to do it, too. It’s required of them.”
Nieto, who has missed five games after being injured Dec. 4 on a hit by Boston defenseman Kevan Miller, skated briefly Monday without pads. McLellan said Nieto will continue to be evaluated on a daily basis but added that he won’t be able to get enough skating in before Thursday to play against the Oilers.
The 19-year-old Mueller, San Jose’s only junior-eligible player, has three points in 24 games this season. But he also has been a healthy scratch in five of the last eight Sharks contests, including Saturday’s home game against Nashville.
The Sharks are carrying eight defensemen, potentially making it easier to for them to let Mueller go for the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 event for under-20 players. The decision must be made before the NHL roster freeze for the Christmas holiday starts Dec. 19.
“Every organization has to talk about their underage players, and that’s where we’re at,” McLellan said. “We have to talk about it. The organization will have to make some decisions there. It’s an option, but we sure like what he’s done here.”
For more on the Sharks, see Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at twitter.com/CurtisPashelka.
Edmonton (7-19-5) at Sharks (17-11-4), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA