The San Jose Sharks are back home and skating at their facility after five weeks on the road.
They took advantage of an unexpected window to practice in San Jose for the first time this season Sunday after two games against the Vegas Golden Knights scheduled for Monday and Wednesday in Glendale, Arizona, were postponed after Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and three coaches were isolated under NHL COVID-19 protocol.
It gave the Sharks a break in a stretch that if not for the postponements would have had them away for six weeks since leaving the Bay Area for training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Dec. 30.
San Jose has played eight games (3-5-0), all on the road, and was supposed to play as the home team in the two games against the Golden Knights at Gila River Arena, home of the Arizona Coyotes. COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County, including a ban on contact sports, kept the Sharks away. The county lifted those restrictions Jan. 25.
The games against Vegas were rescheduled for Feb. 13, the Sharks' first game at SAP Center this season, and Feb. 25. Their home game against the Anaheim Ducks was rescheduled for April 6.
The Sharks said the return home was refreshing, even if it's for a few days.
"I think today it was a noticeable difference," captain Logan Couture said. "Go back three days ago when we were in Colorado, or even Arizona when we flew back there, there was just a sense of, this is dragging on a little long, we'd love to get home, we know there's an opportunity to get home, let's get home. An hour here, and the energy has completely changed. Guys are excited, refreshed. A lot of smiles this morning so it was a good day."
Instead of preparing for the Golden Knights in Arizona, defenseman Erik Karlsson is with his wife, Melinda, and 1-year-old daughter, Harlow, before the Sharks play at the Ducks on Friday and Saturday, and then at the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 9 and 11.
"We still got a lot of work to do, but I think that this gives us an opportunity to do that," Karlsson said. "You could definitely tell that it was a strain on guys, and that's why it's going to be nice now to be able to come and go a little bit more and be home a little bit, because when you go on the road, even if it's for a week, you know you're going to be home at the end of it. For us, it was more we didn't know when we're going to get the chance to come back again."
A 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 28 ended a stretch of eight games in 15 days for the Sharks, who are last in the Honda West Division. Forwards Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier combined for four points (one goal, three assists), and San Jose scored nine goals at 5-on-5 and went 1-for-23 on the power play in its past five games.
The Sharks focused on 5-on-5, special teams and breaking out of their end with more possession at practice, which coach Bob Boughner said was one of the best they've had since the start of training camp.
"That just goes to show you, I think, mentally where we're at," Boughner said.
It was the Sharks' first step toward a refresh, one that could make a big difference beginning Friday.
"I think we're a much better team, but at the same time we got to realize that we've got to work hard on it and make a few changes in our individual game and our team game, and I think that this gives us a good opportunity to do that at home," Karlsson said.