Several teams will miss action this week as the NHL grapples with multiple squads who have players in the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
The league cancelled all games for the New Jersey Devils through Saturday, which impacts two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and another with the New York Rangers.
Sabres ‘Furious’ Over Weekend Exposure
The Devils currently have 10 players on the COVID-19 protocol list, including four who joined that number on Monday. The first of those players, Mackenzie Blackwood, entered the protocol nearly two weeks ago. Two others – Aaron Dell and Sami Vatanen – entered the list because they recently joined the organization.
Others went on the list before the Devils played two games against the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend. Kyle Palmieri played in the Saturday game before going on the list Sunday. The four new additions also played over the weekend.
The fact that players potentially exposed to COVID-19 played against Buffalo ultimately led the NHL to cancel a Tuesday game between the Sabres and the New York Islanders. The Sabres delayed their Long Island trip until Tuesday due to a major snowstorm that hit the northeast overnight on Monday. That delay meant there wasn’t enough time to complete required tracing protocols.
A statement from the Sabres organization. pic.twitter.com/0isvhVsqcV
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 2, 2021
John Vogl of The Athletic cited sources as saying the Sabres organization is “furious” after they attempted to get information about Palmieri over the weekend, but were denied by the league and the Devils.
“We would have loved to have played tonight and get back at it,” Islanders forward Anders Lee said, via NHL.com. “I think now we might have a day or two, depending on what happens here, to get on the ice and practice and work on a few things, and rest and take advantage of what’s in front of us. I think that’s all you really can do. You can’t get bogged down with things you can’t control.”
Elsewhere, the Rangers added winger Kaapo Kakko to the COVID protocol on Monday. The team didn’t announce a reason for the move, though Rangers’ general manager Jeff Gorton described Kakko as “fine.”
About Kakko, Gorton said the team can’t say much, per protocol. But was willing to say Kakko “is fine.”
— Colin Stephenson (@ColinSNewsday) February 1, 2021
NHL COVID-19 Positives Forcing Schedule Changes
COVID issues extend beyond the East Division. The Vegas Golden Knights postponed three games in total, starting with last Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, and including two matchups with the San Jose Sharks on Monday and Wednesday. The NHL said that three Vegas coaches and a player are in the protocol as of Thursday.
The NHL has cancelled at least 14 games so far during the first three weeks of the season, which began on Jan. 13. The league did include over a week at the end of its schedule to accommodate make-up games, however.
Unless the number of postponed games increases dramatically, it’s unlikely that the current situation will have a dramatic impact on the playoff picture, or matter much to bettors. But, as players continue to go on the COVID-19 protocol, gamblers will need to closely watch rosters when considering betting on individual games for the foreseeable future.