San Jose Sharks captain placed in NHL’s COVID-19 protocol

Logan Couture became the latest San Jose Sharks player to enter the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

The Sharks announced Tuesday that Couture, the team’s captain and top-line center, and fellow forward Lane Pederson had both entered the league’s COVID protocol, joining defenseman Mario Ferraro on the list of unavailable players.

Couture entered protocol Monday after a positive coronavirus test and Pederson entered Tuesday morning, a team spokesman said.

The Sharks play the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. (PT).

Couture, 32, is second on the Sharks with 29 points in 32 games. He has goals in four of his last five games and leads the team’s forwards in average time on ice at 18:55. Pederson, 24, has two assists in 20 games.

Sharks coach Bob Boughner said Couture does not have symptoms, but it still appears he and Pederson will miss the remainder of the Sharks’ road trip, which continues after Tuesday with games against Buffalo on Thursday and Philadelphia on Saturday.

“It’s a huge blow,” Boughner said. “Logan does everything. It’s a big loss. He’s your leader.”

The Sharks (17-15-1) are looking to bounce back from an 8-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, and Boughner and others have expressed how much Ferraro was missed in that game. Ferraro, second behind Brent Burns among all skaters in average time on ice, entered protocol on Dec. 30. He is asymptomatic, Boughner has said, and could return to play against the Sabres.

“You’re looking for a little response, a little character, a little pushback, and to have your captain out, (and) Mario out, two important guys in your dressing room, (it’s) not a fun spot to be in,” Boughner said. “But again, this is an opportunity for others.”

Boughner said that Tomas Hertl will likely move up from the second line to the top line with winger Jonathan Dahlen and Timo Meier to replace Couture for Tuesday’s game and that Nick Bonino will move from the third line to take Hertl’s spot.

Hertl has 25 points in 33 games this season and was on an eight-game point streak with eight goals and four assists before Sunday’s loss.

“He’s got to be the motor, he’s got to be the engine for that line,” Boughner said of Hertl. “Bonino’s going to have more responsibilities, so I expect the leaders to set the tone.”

The Sharks enter Tuesday tied for sixth place in the Pacific Division, three points back of the Edmonton Oilers for the second and final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“Other young guys who have been around a little bit here need to step up, the Noah Gregor’s of the world, Dahlen and (Alexander) Barabanov, guys like that,” Boughner said. “We’re going to have a tough time winning games with guys like (Couture) and (Ferraro) out if we don’t have our best players, our most important players, at the top of their game.”

The Sharks recalled center Scott Reedy and goalie Adin Hill from the Barracuda. Reedy and Jasper Weatherby, who was scratched for Sunday’s loss, will likely both play Tuesday, Boughner said. Boughner had indicated Monday that James Reimer will likely start in goal for the Sharks against the Wings.

It was not immediately clear what the rest of the Sharks’ lineup would look like for the start of Tuesday’s game, as Boughner said he was still finalizing his forward lines and defense pairs.

Boughner said Monday that he was looking at making changes to his defense corps. The Athletic reported that Marc-Edouard Vlasic remained on the ice after Tuesday’s morning skate with some of the taxi squad players, an indication that he might be scratched against the Red Wings.

Vlasic was on the ice for four first-period goals Sunday and finished the game with a -3 rating. Vlasic also had an assist and was credited with two blocked shots in 16:26 of ice time.

“The news this morning sort of threw a wrinkle in our plan about tonight,” Boughner said when asked about the defense pairs. “So we’re going back to the drawing board.”

Boughner said the Sharks were still working on ways to get Couture and Pederson back to San Jose, as the two remain in Detroit. One option, Boughner said, was to have them rent a car and drive from Detroit to Philadelphia and fly home with the Sharks on Sunday morning. That’s assuming both players are out of protocol by then.

“There’s a lot of fun logistics we’re dealing with right now,” Boughner said. 

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