NHL and COVID-19 issues: What we know as 22 games have been postponed less than a month into season
The NHL season is entering its fourth week, and one of the tougher opponents has been COVID-19.
The league has had to postpone 22 games so far because of COVID-19 protocols, affecting every division except the all-Canada North. Eleven games have yet to be rescheduled. Seventeen of 24 U.S.-based teams have been affected.
The practice facilities for the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild are closed, and the Vegas Golden Knights returned to practice Wednesday after a week away.
“It’s obviously been a challenge, especially this time of year,” Vegas assistant coach Steve Spott told reporters. “We want to be on the ice, we want to be practicing and obviously, playing. So there’s been a level of frustration, but we understand the cards that we’ve been dealt.”
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Where things stand:
Devils: Eight days ago, goalie Mackenzie Blackwood was the lone Devils player on the COVID-19 protocol list, which can mean, among other reasons, an initial positive test, someone showing symptoms, quarantining because of a trade or possible exposure to someone who tested positive. Wednesday, that number had swelled to 17, and those players are unavailable to play or practice until cleared. The Devils have had three games postponed through Monday.
Sabres: The Sabres played the Devils twice last weekend, and four New Jersey players from the second game were added to the list Monday. Sabres players Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen went on the list the following day, and two more were added Wednesday. Four games have been postponed through Tuesday.
Wild: Five players — Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Johansson and Jared Spurgeon — joined Marcus Foligno on the list Wednesday. As a result, the league announced Wednesday night that Minnesota’s next four games are postponed.
Meanwhile, the Wild said last weekend that first-round pick Marco Rossi, 19, has returned to his native Austria to “rest with his family” as he deals with complications from COVID-19. He tested positive in November, recovered and played in the world junior championships but the complications were discovered during his physical with the Wild.
“He’s limited on what he can do right now, but it’s certainly looking promising for his future,” his agent, Serge Payer, told The Athletic.
Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes: Both teams are playing again after each had four games postponed. The Stars had 17 players test positive in training camp, and the Hurricanes had six on the protocol list at one point. Just one Stars player is on the list, and no one from Carolina.
Washington Capitals: The team played four games without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov, and the team was fined $100,000 because those four had gathered in a hotel room without face coverings. Kuznetsov and Samsonov remain out.
Golden Knights: Their coaching staff had to sit out an overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues, and general manager Kelly McCrimmon went behind the bench. Their next three games were postponed. Coach Peter DeBoer wasn’t at Wednesday’s practice, and neither was defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, the lone player on the protocol list.
It’s unknown whether the full coaching staff will be available for Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s a new world that we’re dealing with right now at a lot of different levels,” Spott said. “As coaches in the National Hockey League, we just have to make sure we’re prepared for the unexpected.”
Captain Mark Stone noted that even though the circumstances are different, teams have been away from the rink this long during a bye week or the All-Star break.
“It’s not completely out of the ordinary, so we’ll be ready to go Friday,” he said.
Others across the league: According to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list from Wednesday, the Chicago Blackhawks (three), Colorado Avalanche (one), Detroit Red Wings (one), Pittsburgh Penguins (one) and Winnipeg Jets (one) all have players unavailable to play.