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.
Forward Timo Meier said the Sharks are happy to know when they will be going home.
“Obviously, the boys are excited,” Meier said Thursday. “Everyone that has family, like a Patrick Marleau that has four kids at home, it’s been a hard time on them, not seeing them. It’s been weird, but it’s definitely something that we’re looking forward to, getting back home. The guys get to see families there in their homes.
“It’s definitely going to give us a lot of energy, but our focus is on the games that are ahead, but it’s definitely a little spark and giving us some energy.”
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.
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.
“In all honesty, we were hoping to come home tonight after the game and spend the weekend and practicing and playing next week against Vegas, but that’s not happening, it’s not in the cards,” coach Bob Boughner said. “You can see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I know the guys are real anxious to get back. It’s been a long haul and by the time we get back we’re looking at almost 50 days for most guys. It’s been enough 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 Mercury News before the announcement. “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.
NHL.com independent correspondent Rick Sadowski contributed to this report