Sharks look to make most of extended road trip

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, file photo, San Jose Sharks' Erik Karlsson, of Sweden, skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis. For the teams that missed the 2020 playoffs, they've spent the past 10 months waiting for the compressed 56-game 2021 season. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

A disappointing 2019-20 season kept the San Jose Sharks out of the NHL bubble when the season restarted following the long break for the coronavirus.

The Sharks are getting plenty of time in a modified bubble of their own to start this season. The Sharks have become the NHL’s vagabonds, kicked out of their home because of strict coronavirus protocols that ban contact sports and sent on a road trip that will last at least a month and possibly even longer.

After spending two weeks for training camp in Arizona, where they are limited to spending time at a hotel or the practice rink, the Sharks will play at least their first eight games on the road, starting with Thursday night’s opener against the Coyotes.

Coach Bob Boughner, who replaced Peter DeBoer last December as the Sharks were headed to a last-place finish in the Western Conference and their second missed playoffs in the past 16 seasons, hopes the unusual circumstances can end up being a benefit.

“If you had asked me last season what this team probably could have used from a chemistry standpoint, from a culture standpoint, I would have said a training camp where we all get away together and have no distractions, and probably a good long road trip to start the season,” Boughner said. “This is a little more than I would have wished for, but I think it’s going to be a good thing for us.”

Whether it ends up being good remains to be seen and will probably depend on how long this journey lasts.

Officials in Santa Clara County, California, announced a three-week ban on contact sports games and practices on Thanksgiving weekend in response to rising coronavirus numbers in the San Jose area.

The ban was extended in December, forcing the Sharks to relocate to Arizona for a training camp that began Dec. 31. The ban was extended again last week and will remain in place until ICU bed availability increases to at least 15% in the area, leaving an open question about when the Sharks will be able to return to San Jose.