SAN JOSE – The Sharks are going to be without Erik Karlsson, Timo Meier, and a handful of other players now on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list for at least a few more days.
Due to Canadian travel regulations, members of the Sharks organization now in protocol will not be able to join the team for upcoming games in Calgary and Winnipeg next week.
Canadian travel directives indicate that individuals coming into the country who have tested positive for COVID and are symptom-free can provide proof of a positive test for entry. However, the first positive test must have been conducted at least 14 days ahead of their international travel.
Sharks coach Bob Boughner, forward Matt Nieto, and defensemen Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic first appeared on the league’s COVID protocol list on Oct. 30, just prior to the Sharks’ game with the Winnipeg Jets. Forward Kevin Labanc was added on Nov. 1 and Meier, head athletic trainer Ray Tufts and equipment manager Mike Aldrich were added on Nov. 2.
The Sharks (6-4-0) host the New Jersey Devils (4-3-2) on Saturday night to close out a five-game homestand, and play in Calgary on Tuesday and Winnipeg on Thursday to start a five-game road trip.
The Sharks were 2-1-0 in the three games since the COVID issues began, beating Winnipeg and Buffalo and losing to St. Louis.
The first day any team member on the COVID list can return would appear to be Nov. 12 when the Sharks come back to the U.S. for a scheduled practice in Denver. The Sharks play the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 13, then finish the road trip with games in Minnesota on Nov. 16 and St. Louis on Nov. 18.
Per NHL rules, players or club personnel who are confirmed positive cases shall remain in isolation until at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, and at least 24 hours have passed since their last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications. Also, to exit isolation, a team doctor must conclude that the individual no longer presents a risk of infection to others.
The last game for Karlsson, Middleton, Simek, and Vlasic was Oct. 28 at home against Montreal. Nieto’s last game was Oct. 26 in Nashville.
Because of the long layoff, Sharks assistant coach John MacLean was asked if it would be realistic for any of these players to jump into the lineup if they haven’t skated or practiced for several days beforehand.
“That’s a player-to-player (situation),” MacLean said. “High-end players sometimes don’t need as much (time). Some guys may need a little bit more. So each will be handled on an individual basis of how they feel and the severity of what they’ve had and how much COVID took out of them or didn’t take out of them.”
The Sharks right now have eight rookies on their roster, and seven are slated to play Saturday — forwards Lane Pederson, Jasper Weatherby, Jonah Gadjovich and Jonathan Dahlen, and defensemen Ryan Merkley, Santeri Hatakka, and Nicolas Meloche.
Hatakka missed Thursday’s game, a 5-3 loss to the Blues. with an upper-body injury, but returned to practice Friday and started Saturday’s game paired with Meloche.
LINE SHUFFLE: With William Eklund on his way back to Sweden to play for Djurgardens, the Sharks moved the struggling Nick Bonino to their top line with Dahlen and Logan Couture for the start of Saturday’s game.
Bonino, who had been the Sharks’ third-line center all season, did not have a point in his first 10 games before Saturday.
“There’s no frustration on his part,” MacLean said of Bonino. “He’s a leader. He’s had a lot of opportunities and he’s a proud guy. New team. He wants to get off the schneid here.”
With Bonino on the top line, the Sharks moved Weatherby from fourth-line center to third-line center and Pederson from the wing to the fourth-line center spot.