- The Vancouver Canucks will finally return to action on Sunday after a severe COVID-19 outbreak.
- At one point last week, 25 players and coaches were in NHL COVID protocol.
- Now the Colorado Avalanche are dealing with COVID-19 related postponements.
The NHL announced on Friday that the Vancouver Canucks are finally set to return from their lengthy bout with COVID-19. The Canucks haven’t played since March 24 and were originally set to resume play on Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers. That timeline was scrapped on Thursday after complaints from Canucks’ players that they were being ‘rushed back’ by the league. Instead, Vancouver will make their return on Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Vancouver GM Jim Benning said that the team would be close to full strength by Sunday:
“Some guys have felt OK, some guys have felt good, and then there’s been probably three guys, I would say right now, that don’t feel well enough to start practicing and working out. But I would think we would have the majority of our guys available, probably minus three or four guys.”
At one point last week, 25 Vancouver players and coaches were in NHL COVID protocol. The situation has improved since then, slowly at first but now things are looking much better. The number of Vancouver players listed as unavailable due to the NHL COVID-19 protocol has gone from 19 on Sunday to 18 on Monday to 16 on Tuesday to seven on Wednesday to three on Thursday. On Friday, only defenseman Nate Schmidt and forward Jake Virtanen remained in the protocol.
One important non-player staff member that has suffered from COVID-19 over the past couple of weeks is Canucks head coach Travis Green. He has not been back on the ice but the hope is that he’ll feel well enough to run practice on Saturday and definitely to be behind the bench on Sunday. GM Benning also indicated that the Canucks likely caught a more virulent strain of the COVID-19 virus. He said that primary team physician Dr. Jim Bovard spoke to colleagues around the league and found that the Canucks had it particularly bad during their recent outbreak:
“With the regular COVID, it seemed like after 10 days players were ready to get back on the ice and start working out and performing. We still had players that when they did that, they still had symptoms.”
With Vancouver (hopefully) out of the woods another Western Conference team is suffering their own issues with the coronavirus. The Colorado Avalanche last played on Wednesday but will have their next three games postponed with players in COVID protocol. Forward Joonas Donskoi entered COVID-19 protocol Friday. Goalie Philipp Grubauer was placed in protocol Wednesday and will be sideined at least two weeks. Defenseman Bowen Byram has been on the list since last Friday.
The Avs won’t play against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday and Sunday, and at the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. New dates have not been announced for the rescheduled games. The Avs are next scheduled to play at St. Louis on Thursday and the hope is that they’ll be able to resume practice on Wednesday.