Sharks, dealing with COVID outbreak, take on Blues

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The San Jose Sharks will test their organizational depth again when they host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday with a diminished roster.

The Sharks defeated the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 Tuesday for their sixth victory in nine games. They won despite missing head coach Bob Boughner along with forwards Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Matt Nieto and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Radim Simek, Jacob Middleton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic due to COVID-19 protocols.

One of the Sharks’ fill-ins, defenseman Santeri Hatakka, exited the Buffalo game with an upper-body injury to further deplete the lineup.

The Sharks canceled their Wednesday practice while trying to stem the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re trying to take as many precautions as we can,” said assistant coach John MacLean, who filled in for Boughner. “We’re wearing masks, we’re doing everything we can.”

The Sharks got help from their AHL call-ups while winning their past two games.

“Sometimes when you’re short-handed, different players out of the lineup … when you keep this game simple, that’s really what they’ve been trying to do,” MacLean said. “The credit goes to the players. They really rallied behind this here. You know, next-man-up mentality.”

San Jose rookie Ryan Merkley scored a goal in just his second NHL game on Tuesday.

“He’s played excellent,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said of the 21-year-old defenseman. “He practices hard. He’s learning to be a pro.”

Tomas Hertl scored two goals and added an assist against the Sabres after producing just four points in his first eight games this season.

“I’m just happy I scored,” Hertl said. “It was nice to get my line going. I’m happy for every single goal.”

The Blues come into the game at San Jose on the heels of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night. St. Louis has earned points in seven of eight games this season.

Winger Brandon Saad was back from COVID-19 protocol to open the Blues’ four-game road trip, but center Ryan O’Reilly, winger Kyle Clifford and backup goaltender Ville Husso remained shelved.

“It’s definitely weird,” Saad said. “I haven’t missed a lot of time, so going through it is different for me — I think more mentally than anything. You want to be out there, you want to be helping the team win. It’s always tough, just to be watching, kind of sitting around waiting.”

Saad needed a few days to get his legs back after rejoining the team.

“It’s a new experience for me, so just getting practices in, some workouts, seeing where your fitness level’s at,” Saad said. “Obviously you want to help the team win, so it’s something you just take day-by-day.”

Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko brings a seven-game point streak (four goals, seven assists) into the Thursday game after notching two assists at Los Angeles. Goaltender Jordan Binnington (5-1-1, 2.42 goals-against average) faced the Kings, so coach Craig Berube may give rookie Joel Hofer his first NHL start.

James Reimer (3-1-0, 1.54 GAA) won the last two games in goal for the Sharks, so he may get the call again over Adin Hill (3-2, 2.95 GAA).

–Field Level Media

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