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COVID-19 Situation Worsening in NHL’s American Divisions

Photo by Jeff Vinnick

COVID-19 Situation Worsening in NHL’s American Divisions

The National Hockey League has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks. With the constant reshuffling of the COVID Protocol Related Absence (CPRA) list, teams across the league have seen the vast importance of the newly-formed Taxi Squads and the ability to rotate players in and out of the active roster.

Last week, the Vegas Golden Knights saw a game played without the team’s coaching staff as a member of that staff and one player tested positive or the virus. Later, it was determined that more players and coaches had acquired the virus, and in an appropriate measure, games were postponed and facilities were shut down.

On Monday, the New Jersey Devils saw 14 players placed on the league’s COVID reserve list, to which the league stepped in and cancelled all Devils games through February 6. Players from New Jersey on the COVID list include: Mackenzie Blackwood, Connor Carrick, Aaron Dell, Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen, Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Ty Smith, Damon Smih, Matt Tennyson and Travis Zajac.

“As an appropriate precaution, the team’s training facilities have been closed to all players on the club’s active roster, effective immediately, and will remain so until further notice,” the NHL release read. “The league is in the process of reviewing and revising the Devils’ regular season schedule. The Devils organization has, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of its players, staff and community at large as set by the NHL, local, state and national agencies.”

Vatanen has been in quarantine since signing a new contract on January 7. Dell is fulfilling his quarantine after being picked up on Waivers from Toronto on January 18. Carrick is in quarantine because he left the team to join his wife following the birth of his child. Four of the players – Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod and Pavel Zacha – were added to the list on Monday. Hischier is injured, while the reasoning behind Zajac and Palmieri’s additions have not been released.

The Devils’ schedule next shows the team hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 9.

“The Binghamton Devils will continue to operate out of the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House, while following all recommended league guidelines to ensure the health and safety of their players and staff,” a release from New Jersey’s AHL affiliate read.

So far, 15 games have been postponed during the 2020-21 season, including two that were announced prior to the start of the season. The Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, Vegas Golden Knights and most recently the New York Islanders.

On Tuesday, the NHL announced that the game between the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders set to be played in New York on Tuesday had been postponed due to COVID protocol related to the blizzard currently sweeping New York.

“Due to weather conditions yesterday, the Sabres altered their travel schedule so as to fly today to New York,” the statement read. “So that required COVID contact tracing and testing protocols can be completed appropriately, the decision has been made to re-schedule the game for a future date.”

As of Tuesday, 11 of the league’s 31 teams have had one or more players on the league’s COVID protocol list. Winnipeg has had Tucker Poolman fulfill his mandatory quarantine after contracting the virus, while Nik Ehlers was placed into protocol after feeling a bit under the weather. Pierre-Luc Dubois is wrapping up his two-week quarantine following the trade from Columbus last Saturday. He is expected to play next week.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com.

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