The severe outbreak of COVID-19 cases among the Vancouver Canucks players and coaching staff served as a harsh reminder to the San Jose Sharks to remain vigilant in protecting themselves against the deadly disease.
As of Monday, the Canucks had 17 players test positive for the coronavirus, with another player being held out as a high-risk close contact. Three members of the Canucks coaching staff have also tested positive, as the virus spread with frightening efficiency throughout the team’s locker room.
“What I find the scariest about that is how quick that spread,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “You can see in the league, there have been teams that had one guy, two guys, maybe four or five guys (out). But when that hits your whole team and staff and god knows, I’m sure families and everything else, that’s pretty scary.”
The NHL first announced last week that it was halting Canucks team activities at least until today, with this Thursday as a targeted return to play. Those dates will obviously have to change, although no official updates have come this week from the NHL regarding the Canucks’ schedule.
Sharks players and staff members have had to follow strict Santa Clara County protocols since they were first allowed to return to San Jose in late January after spending all of training camp and the first two weeks of the regular season on the road.
The Sharks’ last regular-season game is scheduled for May 8, with the NHL playoffs to begin later in the month.
“Everybody, you get a little bit of fatigue with the masks and being extra careful,” Sharks goalie Martin Jones said. “Definitely a good reminder, especially with the end in sight, the end of the season. We’re so close. It’s important for us to buckle down here and be smart.”
There have been multiple reports of players being symptomatic, although none so far have required hospitalizations. Per Sportsnet in Canada, the Canucks may be dealing with the P-1 variant of the disease, which originated in Brazil and is more contagious.
A rise in local COVID infections due to variant cases is causing alarm among Santa Clara County health officials.
“It did give a lot of us guys a huge reminder and a huge wake-up call,” Boughner said. “We know we’re hopefully close here to being able to vaccinate most people, but it’s scary. We send them our best. We know it causes a lot of issues with the NHL and scheduling, but all that said, just hoping these guys come out of it healthy and their families are healthy.”
Boughner, having turned 50 last month, said he’s already received his first COVID-19 vaccine shot and is now waiting for his second one.
Later this month, all California residents ages 16 and older are eligible to become vaccinated.
The NHL is not requiring players to get vaccinated, but teams in some U.S. jurisdictions have already started that process as their players became eligible. Most Detroit Red Wings players, for instance, have already received their shots.
The Sharks have had two players test positive for the coronavirus after the start of the regular season — Tomas Hertl and Marcus Sorensen.
Hertl was out of the Sharks lineup for two weeks, missing six games from Feb. 27 to March 8. Sorensen’s initial positive test turned out to be a false positive. But, due to Santa Clara County’s regulations, Sorensen still had to isolate for 10 days. He missed five games.
Those isolation directives for people who test positive are still in effect. However, county rules state that vaccinated persons who have exposed to someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.
That means two or more weeks have passed since individuals received a second dose in a two-dose series, or two or more weeks have passed for those who received one dose of a single-dose vaccine.
“It’s definitely something that I would consider,” Sharks winger Ryan Donato, who turns 25 on Friday, of getting vaccinated when he’s eligible. “I’m not sure how that’s going to work, but if I had the option to, I think I would definitely take it.”
SHARKS DEBUT: With Marc-Edouard Vlasic out with an upper-body injury, Christian Jaros will make his Sharks debut Tuesday night, starting on the third defense pair with Radim Simek. Jaros’ last NHL game before Tuesday was March 5, 2020, as he played just over seven minutes in a 4-3 Ottawa Senators win over the New York Islanders.
Jaros was acquired in January as the Sharks traded defenseman Trevor Carrick to Anaheim for forward Jack Kopacka, then dealt Kopacka to Ottawa for Jaros, who turned 25 last Friday. Jaros had three assists in 11 games with the Barracuda, with his last game coming March 30 against Bakersfield.
Vlasic will likely be unavailable for Friday’s and Saturday’s games with the Los Angeles Kings, so Tuesday’s game could be an audition of sorts for Jaros to keep his spot.
“He hasn’t played a lot of hockey this year,” Boughner said of Jaros. “So keeping it simple, trying to be physical, he’s a big guy so I’d like to see him defending hard and just making simple plays against this team tonight. I think he’s got a lot of ability and he skates well, and I just want to see him not overcomplicate things and just make the easy plays.”
INJURY UPDATE: It appears injured forward Matt Nieto will be out at least another week and possibly longer. Boughner said he has not heard of any immediate plans for Nieto, who hasn’t played since March 19 with a lower-body injury, to resume skating.