Sharks get two forwards back, but another joins lengthy COVID list

Sharks get two forwards back, but another joins lengthy COVID list

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 players and coaches 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 of them could return. After Tuesday, the Sharks finish their homestand with games against the Blues on Thursday and the Devils on Saturday.

“We’re doing the best we can,” said Sharks assistant coach John MacLean, who ran the bench in Saturday’s game and ran Monday’s practice. “It’s day-to-day with this thing. So we’ll see (Tuesday) … if we add (available) guys. I guess right now it’s either add them or lose them.”

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, making him eligible to practice Monday.

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

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 30: San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer (47) protects the goal against Winnipeg Jets’ Josh Morrissey (44) in the second period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

NHL protocols state that if an initial PCR test is positive, that person 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 may apply to the NHL’s chief medical officer for an exit from isolation after consulting with the club’s infectious disease expert, given that local health officials would allow for a return.

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.

Some Sharks players are symptomatic but a spokesman said the team will not release a full list, 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.

There was no indication from the Sharks on how the breakout might have originated. They did recently return from a five-game road trip through Eastern Canada, Boston, and Nashville, and players — unlike last season — are permitted to spend time in public and away from their hotel rooms and the arenas if they are fully vaccinated.

“It’s different now when you’re on the road,” Cogliano said. “You’re able to go into restaurants and the bottom line is you’re traveling, you’re in hotels. That’s where we’re at, but that’s the entire league, too, so we’re not the only team in that situation.

“I think if anything, it kind of opens your eyes up to this is still very much real for everyone and we have to be vigilant. Unfortunately, we’re learning the hard way right now.”

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’ve been exposed, obviously. There are cases in the room and we have to be smart with what we’re doing around the room and try to stop it there,” Cogliano said. “That’s first and foremost. You don’t want to continue to have players go into the protocol. It’s too long of a time off the ice and you don’t want guys getting sick. That’s the most important thing.

“You don’t want guys sick, you don’t want their families being exposed. It turns into more than a hockey matter, but a life matter.”

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 27: San Jose Sharks’ Kevin Labanc (62) passes the puck against Winnipeg Jets’ Neal Pionk (4) in the first period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Assuming games are not postponed, the Sharks still have to find a way to remain competitive — at least in the short term — if they’re without several experienced players.

John Leonard, one of the five players who were recalled from the Barracuda on Saturday to fill the roster, 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 who practiced Monday were Brent Burns, Mario Ferraro, Jaycob Megna, Ryan Merkley, Nicolas Meloche, Santeri Hatakka — all players who skated in Saturday’s game.

“We’re going to work as hard as we can with the group that we have,” Couture said. “It sucks that guys have to miss time, but that’s the reality of the season. Every team, whether it was last year or this season, is going through something like this.

“It tests the depth of the organization and it was only one game on Saturday, but I thought it was a great show for this organization.”

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