VANCOUVER – The water and Gatorade bottles were all lined up in front of the Canucks’ bench on Saturday morning for their morning skate, each one labeled with an individual player’s number. The purpose was to prevent any further spread of the mumps virus, as five players will be unable to dress against the Sharks on Saturday.
The Sharks went about business as usual when it was their turn to skate. They aren’t really able to take any preventative measures, as the story only came to light on Friday afternoon when they were in the air on their charter flight to British Columbia.
After the morning skate, coach Pete DeBoer joked, “I’ve asked all the guys as they walk by the [Canucks dressing] room to hold their breath on the way out to the bus.”
DeBoer can't do much other than hope that the players remain healthy.
“We had to skate, we had to practice. There’s nothing you can do,” DeBoer said. “You wash your hands. I think our trainers are on it. We’ve got some vaccines set up from what I understand when we get back, but that’s about it.”
Vancouver’s Troy Stecher is the only confirmed case of the mumps, although four others – Nikita Tryamkin, Michael Chaput, Chris Tanev and Markus Granlund – have shown symptoms. That leaves the entire right side of Vancouver’s defense out, so rookie Evan McEnany will be making his NHL debut on the blue line, while Joseph Labate will play his fourth career NHL game up front.
The Sharks will return to San Jose immediately after the game, have a scheduled day off on Sunday, and will reconvene for practice on Monday.
No one in the Sharks’ dressing room had any answers better than DeBoer’s one-liner when it came to trying to avoid the virus, which is spread primarily through saliva and sweat – making it somewhat easily transferable among NHL players, including two seasons ago when several teams dealt with outbreaks.
Joe Pavelski indicated that many Sharks players should be fine, as they had to be vaccinated prior to past Olympic competitions. “You hope it doesn’t spread through your team, because obviously it’s not fun,” he said.
Joe Thornton and Joel Ward will both be searching for the soap, though.
“Just got to wash your hands, that’s what I learned a long time ago,” Thornton said.
Ward said: “Tell the boys to wash their hands, especially Burnzie. That was kind of news to us, so hopefully that doesn’t travel through us. We’ll just knock on wood and [hopefully] stay healthy.”