SAN JOSE -- The number of injuries is bad enough. That they all involve players at the same position adds to the impact.

Logan Couture, who underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a damaged hand, is the seventh Sharks forward currently sidelined by injury or the flu. If the franchise has had this many sidelined in the past, the brass cannot remember it.

Still, there are games to play, starting with home games Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings and Saturday against the Boston Bruins.

"We'd love to have a little break right now and say let's slow this down and postpone a few of our games, let's get healthy and go, but that doesn't happen," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We'll make do with what we have."

The NHL tracks what it calls "man games lost," and at the 44-game mark, San Jose is at 162. A year ago, in an abbreviated 48-game season, the figure was 82. In the last three 82-game seasons, the number never exceeded 167.

It's not just quantity of games, but it's the quality of the players being lost this season, starting with Couture, who could miss the next 15 games leading up to the Olympic break.

Raffi Torres, who proved to be a difference-maker last season, tore up his knee in the preseason and hasn't played yet. Tomas Hertl, the NHL's top rookie scorer before missing the past nine games, could be out for the season after tearing knee ligaments.

And the current list goes on: Adam Burish, Marty Havlat, Tommy Wingels and Tyler Kennedy, though the latter has been fighting the flu and could be back against Detroit. Wingels, too, might be close to return.

Former Shark and current radio analyst Jamie Baker said he hasn't seen anything like this before and has a theory on contributing factors.

"Part of it is just bad luck, but also we're seeing it around the NHL," Baker said. "The pace of the game has never been faster. And because of the Olympic break, you have a condensed schedule, but it's a full schedule."

The standard response from any team is that one player's injury is another's opportunity and one way to gauge organizational depth. In San Jose's case, prospects such as Eriah Hayes and Freddie Hamilton are getting a look, as are older minor leaguers John McCarthy and Bracken Kearns.

But general manager Doug Wilson acknowledged that he could be looking to trade depending on medical reports on who will be coming back, and when.

"You're almost experiencing what your own depth is, when you go through times like this," Wilson said. "But there's a balance there. You explore things. If there's something that fits for both now and later in the year, you do that. It takes two, though."

From McLellan's perspective, this isn't a time to change the nightly game plan, though adjustments do have to be made.

"We've got a formula," he said. "We've got to stick with it. If we as a staff go in and ask our players to change their approach to games, I think we're going to confuse them."

Couture's absence likely presents McLellan his biggest challenge because it means he has to rearrange his depleted top lines.

The fact that Couture averages 19:28 of ice time -- tied with Joe Pavelski for second among Sharks forwards and behind only Patrick Marleau -- means McLellan has a lot of minutes to fill.

"When you take a guy out like 'Cooch,' who takes faceoffs, who plays penalty kill and power play, it's a big hole," he said.

McLellan said he still wants his team to be in attack mode, "but we also have to be smart when it comes to penalties, when it comes to turnovers. We have to manage our shift lengths -- things we try to do all year, but we really have to pay attention now."

As rough as things are, Baker sees the possibility of a silver lining if the Sharks can pick up, say, two-thirds of the available points before the Olympic break.

"You've got younger guys getting quality experience," he said. "They're getting ice time, they're counted on, and the other guys get rested. This could set up nicely for the stretch run."

For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

Thursday's game
Detroit (19-14-10) at Sharks (27-11-6), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA