SAN JOSE – NHL and San Jose Sharks believe that they will be properly prepared from a security point of view should any tensions arise from the possible participation of Russian players in the Global Series league games in the Czech Republic next weekend.

Czech government officials recently stated that Russian hockey players, given their country’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, will not be welcome to their home country at the October 7 and 8 matches between Sharks and Nashville Predators at the O2 Arena in Prague.

The NHL, however, said it did not foresee any problems for Russian players driving into the country and added that it had planned all aspects of the overseas trip over the past few months, including the safety of both teams.

“While we won’t go into details, and as with all League events, the NHL and Sharks safety teams have been working closely together for months to plan all aspects of the team’s journey.” Gary Meagher, NHL’s executive vice president for communications, said in a statement to the news organization.

“Both the League and Sharks security teams will be on site throughout the journey and will work closely with local authorities.”

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently sent a letter to the NHL stating that the country “or any other country in the (visa-free) Schengen area should not issue visas to Russian players to enter our territory.” Sharks CEO Mike Grier responded last week saying the team would not enter the Czech Republic if they could not bring in the full number of players.

This also applies to the Russian-born forward Alexander Barabanov who is flying the Sharks to Europe on Saturday, said coach David Quinn. Barabanov was Sharks’ fifth top scorer last season with 39 points and is predicted to start the year in the team’s top line with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier.

Barabanov is still considered everyday with a lower body injury he sustained on Saturday before the scheduled team fight, and it is unclear when he will be skating again but will be on the road. The sharks are playing in Berlin on October 4, before traveling to Prague.

“Until they tell us we’re not going, we’re going,” said Quinn. “I know they’re still talking about it and so far we’re still going.”

It’s unclear if the NHL is making this European trip safer compared to previous seasons. The NHL has played seasonal games outside of North America on several occasions over the past 15 years, including every year from 2017 to 2019.

“Once we get there, I don’t think there will be any problems,” said Sharks winger Matt Nieto, who was from Colorado Avalanche, when they played in Stockholm against the Ottawa senators in November 2017. Everyone hopes (Russian players) can go and play. (Barabanov) is obviously a big part of our team and we want him to play with us.

“I think once we get there it will be all right.”

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