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7 Sharks in Protocol; Inside One of Strangest Days in Sharks History



The San Jose Sharks have never had a day like this.

Seven Sharks were placed onto the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol this morning –Andrew Cogliano, Jonathan Dahlen, Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Matt Nieto, Radim Simek, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Head coach Bob Boughner and Noah Gregor also tested positive.

Five Barracuda players were called up in their stead – John Leonard, Jaycob Megna, Nicolas Meloche, Nick Merkley, and Ryan Merkley. Assistant coach John MacLean took over as acting head coach, and he and assistant coach John Madden were joined by Mike Ricci behind the bench.

All five AHL call-ups were pressed into action in the San Jose Sharks’ 2-1 OT victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

Captain Logan Couture also missed the game, but per the Sharks, he’s “under the weather “ and not currently in the COVID protocol.

Defensemen Ryan Merkley and Santeri Hatakka made their NHL debuts too – so that’s six San Jose Sharks making their season debuts.

“It’s just a text early in the morning, it kind of just messes up the day a little bit,” Brent Burns said.

The San Jose Sharks, as part of their scheduled, NHL-mandated PCR testing every three days, were tested yesterday. When the positive results came back the next morning, every negative-testing member of the team was asked to come in and get re-tested.

“You’re not planning on getting up in the morning and testing, coming to the rink,” Burns acknowledged. “You try to create a routine for a four o’clock game that’s not very normal. You’re timing your breakfast and sleeping to a certain time.”

So you have to come in much earlier than usual and there are seven empty locker room stalls. There’s no doubt you’re thinking about your missing teammates.

“It was weird because we missed like four D, a couple forwards. This has never happened since I played here,” Tomas Hertl noted. “Some guys don’t feel great, some guys feel totally fine.”

How about for Santeri Hatakka and Ryan Merkley, pressed out of action out of nowhere? For Merkley, especially, this was a surreal NHL debut, as he skated for the San Jose Barracuda last night.

“It was probably a little bit nicer for those guys to get that first one and have just a crazy-ass day,” Burns pointed out. “They don’t really have time to think about [I’m] playing my 1st game tomorrow or you’re trying to plan, I don’t know, your parents coming in.”

Even driving into SAP Center, a couple hours before puck drop, the San Jose Sharks didn’t know for certain that they were playing.

“45 minutes before the game,” Hertl noted, “we’re still not sure if we’re playing or not.”

Hertl, of course, went through COVID protocol last year.

James Reimer confirmed: “After warm-ups, we got the okay that we were going.”

Now you know you’re playing, what’s the room like?

“It was a little chaotic,” Reimer shared. “But guys were calm and having fun with it a little bit too. It was obviously a wild scenario. Guys were keeping it light.”

Maybe it was easy to keep things light when everybody outside of the room was expecting you to lose.

“You guys [were probably] like this is two points for Winnipeg,” Hertl said, smiling. “We have half the team gone.”

According to the gregarious Czech centerman, the message was simple: “We’re all here, work together, we still can get two points.”

And improbably, against a loaded Winnipeg squad that got Blake Wheeler back from COVID protocol today, the San Jose Sharks got those points.

Reimer turned back 34 of 35 shots, but to the Sharks’ credit, they did a good job of keeping the Jets to the outside, exemplified by their 16-6 Slot Shots on Net advantage. Hertl opened scoring and Timo Meier potted the overtime winner.

“That was a huge win for us moving forward to feel more confident, for sure,” Mario Ferraro noted. “In our ability to come out and win some games, so long as we stick to our structure and stick to our system.”

“I’m proud of every single guy in the room right now,” Hertl said.

Even the sidelined Boughner chimed in – via speakerphone in the coaches’ room.

“He was excited for us,” MacLean shared. “He said he was proud of everybody.”

“It was a pretty, pretty weird day,” Ferraro said, an understatement in one of the strangest days in San Jose Sharks history.

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