Game Preview | 5 things to know ahead of Sabres at Sharks –

Cody Eakin is expected to return to the lineup for the Sabres against the San Jose Sharks tonight at SAP Center. Victor Olofsson‘s status has yet to be determined. 

The Sharks, meanwhile, have seven players and two staff members in COVID-19 protocols. 

In other words, we have plenty to cover.

Here are five things to know ahead of tonight’s game, which airs at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN+. 

1. Updates on Eakin, Olofsson

Eakin has missed five games with an upper-body injury, which he sustained during practice on Oct. 21. He practiced for the first time without a non-contact jersey on Monday.

Sabres coach Don Granato said he had yet to speak with the medical staff when he met with the media before the game but expected Eakin in the lineup.

 “I’m still gonna follow up,” Granato said. “… Based on what I watched, Eakin is ready to go.”

Olofsson sustained an injury during practice on Monday and did not participate in the team’s morning skate, but Granato did not rule him out for tonight. 

“I can’t say he’s definitively out, but we just need a little bit more information before we decide on that,” Granato said. “Again, it’s an aggravation type injury and we’re awaiting whether it would hurt to have him play and aggravate it further.”

Olofsson leads the Sabres in goals (5) and points (9). 

Video: PREGAME: Granato

2. The goaltenders

The Sabres will start Craig Anderson, who has won four of five starts this season with a .939 save percentage. 

The Sharks are expected to go with James Reimer, who will make consecutive starts for the first time this season. Reimer has a .964 save percentage in four appearances. 

3. The road trip

The Sabres have split the first two games of their West Coast trip despite letting leads slip in both contests. They led 3-0 in Anaheim before winning the game in overtime and 2-0 in Los Angeles before surrendering three unanswered goals in regulation. 

Granato referred to the experiences as necessary pains for a team navigating its first extended road trip. 

“The biggest thing for me as a coach is, I don’t want our team to panic over these last two situations,” Granato said. “We have to learn from them and it has to help us evolve. But that is never going to go away.” 

4. San Jose players in COVID-19 protocol

The Sharks added leading scorer Timo Meier to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday. Meier joins six teammates in protocols: forwards Kevin Labanc and Matt Nieto and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Sharks head coach Bob Boughner and head trainer Ray Tufts are also in protocols. Assistant coach John MacLean is serving as acting head coach in Boughner’s absence.

Granato said the Sabres have taken extra precautions given San Jose’s situation. The Los Angeles Kings also had two players enter protocols (forwards Gabriel Vilardi and Viktor Arvidsson) just before their game against the Sabres on Sunday. The Sabres’ next opponent, the Seattle Kraken, currently have forward Jared McCann and assistant coach Paul McFarland in protocols.

“It gives you a reminder that you can never be too safe and never be too conscious,” Granato said. 

5. Scouting the Sharks

San Jose (5-3-0) pulled off a 2-1 overtime victory over Winnipeg on Saturday despite its long list of absentees. Reimer made 34 saves in the win, which snapped a three-game losing streak. 

The Sharks recalled five players from their AHL affiliate to play in that game. They dressed eight players with less than 35 NHL games on their resume, including 2018 first-round pick Ryan Merkley in his league debut. 

“They play hard and fast and they are on you quick,” Granato said. “We just have to prepare that way, I think. Yes, they’re missing some skill that can execute at a higher level of proficiency. Obviously, that’s the difference. But as far as how they attack and play, I don’t see that changing.

” It’s clear and evident that they play hard. We have to be ready for that. Any time you have reduced skill in their lineup, I’m sure they’re going to try to supplement it by working even harder.”

The Sharks are expected to have captain Logan Couture back in the lineup after he missed Saturday’s game with a non-COVID illness. Couture ranks second on the team with nine points (3+6).