Interim Buffalo Sabres coach Don Granato and assistant Matt Ellis have entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol and will be unavailable for tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team announced late this afternoon. General manager Kevyn Adams will coach the team.
Granato and Ellis are self-isolating, according to the team. Adams said they’re asymptomatic. Entering COVID-19 protocol doesn’t mean the person has tested positive.
The coaches, of course, were in close contact with the players, so how does the game go on? Adams couldn’t reveal other details.
“What’s key here is that they’re in protocols,” Adams said on a Zoom call from PPG Paints Arena. “This just happened to me within the last couple of hours so I don’t have really any information.”
Adams said Rochester Americans coach Seth Appert, who filled in for assistant coach Dan Girardi once last week, is on his way to Pittsburgh and could arrive around game time or shortly after.
The Sabres, who have lost 15 straight games, endured a two-week COVID-19 pause last month. Granato, who was hospitalized with severe pneumonia early last season, briefly fulfilled his coaching duties from a suite during games after the Sabres came back.
Adams wouldn’t comment on his level of concern for Granato and Ellis.
“I’m not a doctor,” Adams said. “They’re in COVID protocol. There’s strict provisions around this with the NHL and how things run, and that’s all I’ll say. But they’re both doing great, they both feel good and we’ll hopefully have more information shortly on where we go from here.”
While Adams has never been a head coach at the pro level, he served as an assistant with the Sabres in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
“I’m comfortable,” he said of stepping behind the bench. “Obviously, I’ve been watching every game, and with the team all season. I know the team really well, the personnel, I know the tendencies. Obviously, (I’ve) been behind a bench before. I think the players also know in these situations this is an opportunity for them to take on adversity in their own way and be better for it, right?
“So that was part of the message, too. ‘Hey, we’re all in this together. Let’s go and do the best we can. And expectations don’t change. Time to go to work.’”
Stay tuned for more updates.
In other news, Adams said forwards Steven Fogarty and C.J. Smith, who were recalled from the taxi squad this afternoon, will play tonight. Adams said winger Tage Thompson is sick but he isn’t in COVID-19 protocols. The Sabres have also placed forward Rasmus Asplund on injured reserve.
Adams said Dustin Tokarski will start in goal, his second straight nod.
The Sabres also recalled forwards J-S Dea and Brett Murray to the taxi squad this afternoon.