- Editor's note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California's Sharks coverage for the 2021-22 season. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.
In retrospect, it was a telltale sign.
On Oct. 29, both Erik Karlsson and Jake Middleton missed practice. That means the San Jose Sharks ran five defensemen, short the regular six, on the ice that morning. It was an unusual sight to miss an entire pairing in an otherwise full practice.
If it was just Karlsson missing that Friday, you might have chalked it up to a veteran’s maintenance day. But Middleton, of just 21 NHL games experience, too?
On Oct. 30, Karlsson, Middleton, five other San Jose Sharks players, and head coach Bob Boughner went into COVID protocol. The organization was forced to recall five Barracuda skaters from the AHL to replace them.