SAN JOSE — Coach Bob Boughner and a deluge of Sharks players were placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Saturday just hours before the team’s game with the Winnipeg Jets at SAP Center.
Forwards Andrew Cogliano, Jonathan Dahlen, Matt Nieto, and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were all unavailable to play Saturday, and some could miss more time. Noah Gregor, a member of the San Jose Barracuda, was also placed in the league’s protocol.
A Sharks spokesman said some of the individuals were symptomatic, although not all. The team would not specify who those individuals were.
Despite the obstacles, the Sharks pulled out an unlikely win, as Timo Meier scored at the 1:07 mark of overtime to help San Jose earn a 2-1 victory.
Sharks captain Logan Couture was ill and also missed the game but was not placed in COVID protocol, according to the team.
With Boughner unavailable, John MacLean acted as head coach Saturday and ran the forward group. John Madden was also on the bench and ran the defensemen. They were be joined by Mike Ricci, who acted as another set of eyes to help MacLean and Madden.
NHL protocols state that if an initial PCR test is positive, that individual is immediately isolated while a second confirmatory test is conducted and contact tracing begins.
Per league protocol, fully vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic may continue to be tested daily with PCR tests during their period of isolation.
If the individual has two or more consecutive negative tests, the team doctor, in consultation with the club’s infectious disease expert, and if allowable under local health authority laws or regulations, may apply to the NHL’s chief medical officer for an exit from isolation.
According to NHL rules for this season, though, symptomatic individuals must isolate from the team for at least 10 days and need a doctor’s approval to return once symptoms have disappeared.
In response to the positive tests among players, the Sharks recalled forwards John Leonard and Nick Merkley, and defensemen Nicolas Meloche, Ryan Merkley, and Jaycob Megna. Ryan Merkley, the Sharks’ first-round pick in 2018, and Hatakka, a 2019 sixth-round pick, made their NHL debuts.
“We just kind of went through whatever we had to go through to get the testing done, and then waited for the results,” MacLean said. “Unfortunately, in, the world we live in, sometimes this happens and we’ve got to get prepared to play a hockey game.”
Sharks players receive a PCR test every three days. The team spokesman said individuals were tested Friday and that the test results would have been available overnight. Players, and Boughner, received the test results early Saturday morning.
Boughner confirmed before the start of the season that all Sharks players who were with the team by the end of training camp were fully vaccinated. The Sharks had every player available for their recently completed five-game road trip, which included three stops in Canada.
As for the five players who were recalled, MacLean said the guys were “probably ticked off that they got sent down in the first place. They’re going to get an opportunity.
“We have players here that are capable of playing well and then we’ve got to go compete. It makes no difference. In this game, no one feels sorry for you. It’s the next man up and you’ve got to be ready to go.”
The Sharks were playing a Jets team that had Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler back Saturday after both recently cleared COVID-19 protocol themselves.
Wheeler hasn’t played since Oct. 16 when the Jets were in San Jose and has missed the last five games. Scheifele hasn’t played since Oct. 19, missing the last four games — all Jets wins.
“We’re all aware of the situation we’re in and playing,” MacLean said. “We’re all happy to be playing and competing in the National Hockey League. So, unfortunately, this is part of how things go in the National Hockey League right now. We have to just live with it, move on, deal with it and get ready for the game.”