His slow start was due to a torn labrum injury sustained while competing for the Czech Republic in the World Championships this summer after spending last season with the Minnesota Wild.
Since joining San Jose, Havlat has had five assists, but more importantly, his linemates have improved their games.
Before October 21, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe had combined for one goal and two assists.
In the six games they’ve played with Havlat, Couture has scored four goals, recorded two assists and Clowe has two goals and three assists.
“I hope they weren’t waiting for him,” said head coach Todd McLellan, acknowledging both player’s improvements.”
Havlat is known as a cerebral player that holds on to a lot of pucks and can create plays from the boards and behind the net.
“It’s a pretty good compliment for Cooch’s tenacity and Clowey’s size and puck-handling skills.”
Joe Pavelski previously played on the second line alongside Clowe and Couture. With the departure of Dany Heatley—the player traded to Minnesota for Havlat—in the offseason, Pavelski has joined Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on the top line.
“[It was] just a priority of practice every day,” said Couture in reference to building chemistry with his new linemate.
“We’ll get more familiar with one another—spots we’re going to be on the ice, stuff like that.”
Couture and Clowe played with each other last year and had to adjust to Havlat’s game while on their road trip.
“We tried to get something going in practice,” said Clowe, echoing Couture. “Obviously, it’s not the same as a game, but you…always feel when you play with players like that that it doesn’t take too long to adjust.”
Havlat plays a different game than Pavelski. He has considerably more speed and is more likely to pass the puck.
“I know he likes the puck behind the net, in the corners a little bit, makes play from the half-wall,” says Clowe, “and he’s not afraid to take guys one-on-one.”
Couture says that he’s had a great time playing alongside Havlat.
“He’s been a good addition,” acknowledges Couture.
“He’s smart with the puck—crafty, he’s very sneaky with it. He makes head’s up plays so he’s been fun to play with.”
Like all players entering their second season, Couture must avoid the Sophomore slump—a phenomenon that comes with increased attention after an outstanding rookie campaign.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him,” says McLellan of Couture, who scored 32 goals last season and was a Rookie of the Year candidate.
“There’s some internally,” continues McLellan, “but externally…when people come and watch him and expect [him to score 30-plus goals]."
“That’s a tough position for a player.”
Havlat assisted on two of Couture’s goals on the road.
In Boston, Havlat fished the puck out from the boards and found Couture wide open in the slot. With the entire net to work with, Couture placed the puck behind Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas with relative ease.
“I found a spot to be and he made a great pass,” says Couture. “Not many players can make passes like that.”
Against Nashville, Couture and Havlat connected for a short-handed goal.
“That’s just practicing two-on-two over and over: middle drive, open up some space, create some questions for the D-men,” says Couture, “they don’t know who to take and that’s what happened.”
After a slow start to the season, Couture is looking like a player capable of topping the 32-goal, 24-assist marks he set last season.
“He’s handled [the pressure] well,” says McLellan, “fought through the adversity early in the year and now pucks are starting to go in for him.”
The addition of Havlat has been a big part of that.
Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers baseball and hockey. All quotes were obtained first-hand.
Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
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