The San Jose Sharks will play their first games at SAP Center on Feb. 13 and Feb. 15.
The Sharks have been playing road games since opening the NHL season Jan. 14 due to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County, California.
“While we are pleased to have received permission for the team to return to Santa Clara County, there are numerous health and safety issues — both from the County and [NHL] level — that need to be implemented to ensure the safety of the returning players and staff,” the Sharks said in the statement announcing the return.
San Jose was scheduled to return to play at SAP Center on Feb. 1 but will play that game and one Feb. 3 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, as the home team against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“I think the guys are ready to get back and be with their families. So I’d say there’s a sense of disappointment,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner told The Mercury News on Wednesday before the announcement. “But we knew … that there was a chance we wouldn’t be going back until the next set of home games. So we knew that was a possibility, but I think we were all hoping that it would happen this weekend, and unfortunately it’s not. So we just have to roll with it.”
San Jose (3-4-0) will play its eighth road game to start the season at the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Following the two games against Vegas, it will play four road games (two at the Anaheim Ducks and two at the Los Angeles Kings) for a total of 14 games before returning to SAP Center to play the Ducks.
“We’re going to stay with a pretty strict protocol here until we get home,” Boughner said. “So we’re together as a group for another couple weeks on the road for sure.”
Goalie Devan Dubnyk was traded to the Sharks by the Minnesota Wild this offseason and has never played a home game at SAP Center.
“We wanted to get clarity,” Dubnyk told the newspaper. “The toughest part is when you’re sitting there not knowing whether we’re going to be in Arizona, we’re going to be at home, go home and then go to Arizona. That’s a lot tougher on guys. Just kind of having some finality to what’s going on. … Everybody wants to get home and see their families, but we got told the news that we’ll be going Arizona and I think we’ve all kind of been expecting that for these first couple games anyway.”
Fans will not be permitted at SAP Center. The Sharks intend to play their 26 remaining home games of the 56-game schedule there.
The Sharks are the only NHL team not playing in its home arena. They held training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, due to the county restrictions, and last played at SAP Center on March 8, 2020.