Sharks get two forwards back, but lengthy list of absent players remains

SAN JOSE – Andrew Cogliano and Logan Couture were back on the ice for the Sharks’ practice on Monday morning, but Kevin Labanc joined a lengthy list of individuals within the organization now in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

Labanc played in Saturday’s game — a 2-1 overtime win by the Sharks over the Winnipeg Jets — but was not at Monday’s practice and it remains unclear how much time he or others in the league’s protocol might have to miss.

Other Sharks team members who remained in the league’s COVID protocol Monday were coach Bob Boughner, forwards Jonathan Dahlen and Matt Nieto, and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Their status for Tuesday’s game with the Buffalo Sabres at SAP Center is unknown, although assistant coach John MacLean said it’s possible that some individuals could return. After Tuesday, the Sharks finish their homestand with games against St. Louis on Thursday and New Jersey on Saturday.

Cogliano was among the seven Sharks players who did not take part in Saturday’s game. He said he tested positive Friday, but that subsequent tests Saturday and Sunday came back negative.

Couture also returned to the practice Monday. He said he was ill Saturday morning and felt he had COVID-like symptoms, but tested negative just before the start of the Jets’ game, although he was not feeling well enough to play. Couture has continued to test negative.

“For the rest of the guys, it was interesting for them to come to the rink not knowing if the game was going to go on,” Couture said. “I thought they did an incredible job playing that game.”

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. 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 who test positive must isolate from the team for at least 10 days and need a doctor’s approval to return once symptoms have disappeared.

A Sharks spokesman said the team is not going to release a list of players who are symptomatic, adding that the organization wants to let the situation play out over the next few days when more results are confirmed.

The Sharks announced in October that all players and coaches in their training camp at that time were fully vaccinated.

The Sharks’ spokesman said the team, as required, notified Santa Clara County health officials about its positive cases and is “in compliance with the necessary reporting.” The county’s threshold for positive cases to be considered a workplace outbreak is three in 14 days.

“The franchise has been in contact with the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department,” a county spokesman said, “and we are working together to ensure all isolation, quarantine, and testing procedures are properly followed.”

The Sharks said they have also implemented other safety measures, such as limiting the size and the length of team meetings.

“We’re wearing our masks, we’re doing all of the things that we believe we’re asked to do to try and keep this (in check),” MacLean said.

John Leonard, one of the five players who were recalled from the Barracuda on Saturday, skated Monday on the Sharks’ top line with Couture and Timo Meier. The Sharks’ second line featured Tomas Hertl with Alexander Barabanov and William Eklund.

Cogliano was on a line with Nick Bonino and Rudolfs Balcers. Players on the Sharks’ fourth line were Jasper Weatherby, Lane Pederson, Jonah Gadjovich, and Nick Merkley.

The six Sharks defensemen that practiced Monday were Brent Burns, Mario Ferraro, Jaycob Megna, Ryan Merkley, Nicolas Meloche, Santeri Hatakka.

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