The media wearing masks at the upper level of the Saddledome were buzzing with the absence of Johnny Gaudreau and a few other big names from the group of 24 for the first of two sessions.
Would he appear in the second group?
Alas, Gaudreau’s return was simply delayed for a few hours by a strange decision to put him, Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic and Andrew Mangiapane with the group of nine remaining who still included two absences.
Shortly after assistant coach Martin Gelinas started testing the guys at the end of the session, the team released a statement that will certainly become a fixture in the league over the next few months:
“Buddy Robinson and Dillon Dube could not participate today,” he said, setting out the explanation mandated by the league for all future absences to protect the privacy of the players.
No more upper or lower body discussions, opening up the daily discussion of whether absent players will ultimately appear as statistics in the COVID-19 weekly league table.
“I have a feeling this is going to happen, but once the games and practice start, the guys block the shots and miss the games,” said Matthew Tkachuk, when asked if he was ready for obvious whispers, even after days of routine maintenance.
“I know it’s human nature to speculate, but I’m going to advise people not to speculate too much. They just let me know that we don’t say anything. It is not my call. If I had to say something, it’s “don’t speculate”. ”
It’s hard not to know when the coach added this fascinating answer when asked why the main and secondary groups looked so unconventional.
“The circumstances that appeared to us last week meant that we had to divide the groups as you saw them today,” said acting coach Geoff Ward of the setup, who he said could change daily.
“I can’t say more than that. ”
Feel free to draw your own conclusions, this is exactly what everyone in and around the league will do daily to move forward.
Monday’s absences from the league promised to be particularly glaring for obvious reasons, especially after flame director Brad Treliving said Sunday night that it was the start of their stay in Edmonton on July 26 that had him makes you lose sleep.
“It’s a great stretch for each team and you want to be as healthy as possible by going to the main cities,” said Tkachuk.
“I am as smart as I can and I try to get things out as much as possible. ”
The organization is certainly doing its best to do so with the long list of obvious precautions, including the daily COVID-19 tests.
One trainer, Jordan Sigalet, wore a mask on the ice as he suffered from multiple sclerosis.
All training personnel and equipment personnel on the bench also wore face covers, as did driver Zamboni.
The media, who were relegated to the upper level of the Saddledome, had to wear masks, sign a health questionnaire and undergo a temperature check as part of the screenings.
There will be no face-to-face interviews the rest of the season as all communications between players and the media will be by phone or Zoom.
The organization’s group of 52 who will be part of the NHL bubble in Edmonton is being formed.
“I feel safer in our locker room – the way our training and our medical staff have cleaned it up and made it better, they make you feel safe,” said Captain Mark Giordano.
“For now, you have to be smart and do as little as possible. The message from me and all the guys is to try to stay at home and make sure we arrive in the central city with all of our healthy team. ”
On the ice, they worked on the power play, the penalty kick, the area coverage and used the first two sessions as a reminder.
However, the delivery on the opening day was a discussion of the two absent players, how this is handled by the league (teams are not allowed to comment on absences or test results of any kind) and whether the number number of missing players will be the same significant as it was in Pittsburgh where nine players missed the opening day due to COVID-19 precautions.
“Yeah, it’s coming,” said Giordano of speculation to track each absence.
“Every day, you will have to face an injury, Covid or something else. Guys who are not there, there is going to be a lot of speculation. It will become a kind of regular in the league, for sure. As players, all we can do is follow the guidelines and protocols, and whatever they advise us to do, we will. ”
It was difficult to draw conclusions from the line combinations due to the hodgepodge of groups, but the fact that Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson were the only two defenders in the second group may provide a clue as to who will replace Travis Hamonic alongside from Hanifin on the second pairing.
Hamonic was the only Flame to exercise its right to skip the playoffs, citing family reasons.
From the first session
Quine – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Rieder
Ruzicka – Ryan – Czarnik
Froese – Gawdin – Phillips
Giordano – Brodie
Forbort – Gustafsson
Valimaki – Yelesin
Kylington – Pierre
Extra – Mackey
Rittich, Zagidulin, Gillies
Gaudreau, Lucic, Rinaldo, Jankowski, Mangiapane, Bennett