Don Granato missed Thursday’s game. ©2021, Micheline Veluvolu

False COVID-19 positives caused Sabres’ Don Granato, Matt Ellis to miss game

When interim Buffalo Sabres Don Granato learned on Thursday his COVID-19 test had returned positive, he said he was in disbelief.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t believe it in the sense of, I said, ‘It’s not right, it didn’t feel right,’” Granato, who received his second vaccination last week, said on a Zoom call this morning. “And I say that because I believe the protocols that have been in place have given me a level of confidence that I didn’t feel panic at all.”

It turns out Granato and assistant coach Matt Ellis, who also entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, had false positives.

They had to self-quarantine and watch Thursday’s 4-0 road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins from their hotel rooms. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and Rochester Americans coach Seth Appert filled in for them.

Granato and Ellis will be back behind the bench this afternoon against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Granato and Ellis couldn’t take the team’s charter flight following Thursday’s game because they needed more negative results. Instead, they returned to Buffalo that night and took cars to Boston on Friday.

“So heck of a day, but I got a lot of work time on the laptop and obviously got to see our team from a different vantage point the other night,” Granato said. “I’m looking forward to being back with them today, I’m certainly excited about that.”

Granato was hospitalized with severe pneumonia early last season and missed nearly two months.

“People are aware that I did have a pretty good health scare a year ago, there are some unknowns, certainly, with this virus for everybody,” he said. “And for me, I wanted to reduce any risk I could. I’ve had no anxiety coming to work at any point this year, and again, it’s because of the protocols that are in place, how serious people around our organization take it, so that’s been very comforting for me. And this really didn’t feel uncomfortable yesterday.”

In other news, Granato, who Sabres have lost 16 straight games, said goalie Linus Ullmark will start his first game this afternoon since suffering a lower-body injury Feb. 25.

The Sabres this morning activated Ullmark and winger Kyle Okposo from injured reserve and recalled forward J-S Dea from the taxi squad. They also sent goalie Michael Houser and forward C.J. Smith back to the taxi squad.

Okposo missed three games battling an upper-body injury related to his neck. Dea hasn’t played in the NHL since last season.

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