Canadians’ COVID-19 of Concern in the North Division

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Canadians' COVID-19 of Concern in the North Division


Getting nearly a week off in Montreal is something millionaire hockey players normally go for.
This is not the case in 2021.

The Edmonton Oilers were forced to spend a lot of time at the team hotel and on the practice ice this week when their three-game streak against the Canadiens was postponed after two Montreal players were added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

“Lots of rest,” Oilers center Leon Draisaitl said. “Lots of time with the guys. ”

Edmonton arrived in Montreal on Sunday for games scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Those plans changed dramatically when Canadians’ forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia were placed in protocol on Monday, canceling the series opener and signaling the Canadian Northern Division’s first postponement of the truncated season.

The teams ‘next two games – as well as the Canadiens’ game with the Ottawa Senators scheduled for Sunday – were also subsequently abandoned and will be caught at a later date.

NHL players and team staff are limited to airports, hotels and arenas when they are on the road this season, while life at home is essentially a mirror image as the league continues to grow. ‘trying to keep the coronavirus at bay.

“We’re lucky to have had those training days,” said Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson, whose team arrived in Toronto on Thursday before a two-game set with the Maple Leafs. “You come out of your room for a bit. Other than that, there aren’t many.

“A little ping-pong, a lot of TV shows. ”

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin told reporters Thursday that one of the two players in question had a confirmed case of a variant of COVID-19. The decision to postpone was made by medical officials for the league, the NHL Players’ Association and the Canadiens.

Although outbreaks and positive tests south of the border impacted a number of NHL teams and forced the reshuffle of the schedule, the North had been relatively unscathed for the first two months of the season before. the current situation in Montreal.

And it served as a further warning to the other six clubs in Canada about how insidious and serious the virus remains – even with all precautions – with the variant threat and the rollout of the glacial vaccine in the country.

“It’s a huge reminder,” said Leafs winger Zach Hyman. “Especially with things in the United States opening up more and the players there getting the vaccine, we’re in a different boat in Canada. We have to be extremely careful.

“Even here things are starting to open up, the weather is improving so I’m sure there are temptations to come out. Even more important is staying on top of things and making sure everyone in our locker rooms stays safe, wears a mask and does whatever we do. ”

Vancouver Canucks blue liner Nate Schmidt said that while COVID-19 hasn’t had as much of an impact on the NHL in Canada as it has in the United States, a shutdown of some sort was likely inevitable.

“It’s a bit of a ghost,” he said. “You never know when, where or how you can get it. It is something that we have been fortunate not to have much to do here.

“A lot of teams had to go through this. It is no different from what we are going through now. ”

Bergevin said he expects each Canadian team’s schedules to be adjusted following this week’s postponements. Montreal is currently scheduled to play in Ottawa on Tuesday, but the Canadiens training facility will remain closed throughout the weekend.

“Whatever program is later, we have to deal with that,” said Edmonton head coach Dave Tippett. “It’s a shame that this happened, but it wasn’t something unexpected. ”

Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Copp has said even the most stringent precautions weren’t foolproof during the NHL’s COVID-19 era.

“The (Canadian) teams did a really good job not allowing that or doing their best, obviously with a little luck,” he said. “But it had to happen. ”

The start time of another game between the Oilers and the Canadiens on February 11 at the Bell Center was pushed back an hour after Edmonton forward Jesse Puljujarvi was placed in protocol, but he was deemed eligible to resume team activities two days later.

In all, 41 games have been postponed in the NHL, and many more have been postponed.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said the positive tests are a concern for the health of everyone involved, but also for the season in general.

“Whether you miss players for certain games or games are postponed and then they are sandwiched into an already condensed and busy schedule, it becomes a competitive situation,” he said. “It creates real challenges. We want to do everything we can to not get into this situation. ”

As for live games, the Oilers and Leafs will both be rested after Toronto only played for the third time in 11 nights Thursday before Saturday and Monday’s tilts at Scotiabank Arena with first place. in the North at stake.

The Leafs embarrassed the Oilers at home in a three-game sweep earlier this month, but Edmonton rebounded to a 7-2-0 record in its next nine games before arriving in Montreal on the last weekend. Toronto, meanwhile, is just 3-6-0 in that span and held a two-point lead over the Division-top Winnipeg Oilers and Jets heading into Friday’s game.

“You obviously want to send a message,” said Draisaitl, whose team is 2-5-0 against the Leafs with their last regular season clashes on the bridge. “We want to beat them and show them that we are also a good team. ”

And that team, according to Larsson, have grown a lot closer this season – including over the past week.

“We spent a lot of time together,” he said. “You’re pretty much with the team all the time on the road. It has been good for us. ”

Last week wasn’t a break the Oilers wanted or really needed, but a break they were prepared for in this most unique campaign.

“If you had gone through the year without any interruptions, you would have been grateful,” Tippett said. “But you would probably have been surprised. We see that as part of what this season is. It’s not a normal year.

“It’s just part of what we have to face. ”

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