All three teams have a significant number of players under the COVID Protocol List. A decision regarding when they can return to practice and their schedule is yet to be made.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 8, 2021
NHL Postpones Seven More Games
The NHL has announced they are postponing seven additional games. With this announcement, they have now postponed 33 games this season.
New Jersey had three games postponed – two against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 11 and 13, and one against the Boston Bruins on February 15. Buffalo had their two games against the Washington Capitals on February 11 and 13 postponed. The last time both teams played was on January 31st, when they faced each other at the KeyBank Center, in Buffalo.
The League also announced Minnesota’s games against the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings have been postponed. The Wild hasn’t played a game since February 2 and had their facilities closed on February 3.
In total, the three teams now have 35 players on the NHL COVID Protocol List. Of those, 24 are from New Jersey and Buffalo, all added after the game on January 31. The Sabres coach, Ralph Krueger, is also under protocol after testing positive. And two linesmen have been added to the protocol, according to The Athletic.
What this Means to The East Division
This COVID outbreak is a huge problem for the NHL and the East Division. In total, the league has postponed 12 games in the East Division from February 2nd to February 15th – all related to Buffalo and New Jersey. Nothing can guarantee more postponements won’t take place. This is the longest no-game strike for any team since the season started.
The question now is: what will the NHL do next? They have changed their protocols and added four more measures. But the situation with Buffalo and New Jersey is getting out of their control. This postponement announcement came only two days after they published the new East Division schedule. Since then, Buffalo has added three players to the list. By now, it’s clear the league doesn’t know how to deal with this outbreak.
The impacts for the East Division if more games are postponed will be significant. Their schedule was already packed before Monday’s announcements. What happens when more games are postponed due to COVID? The league has a few options, and none are fair to the teams that are following the protocols.
They can decide the Division will only play 50 to 52 games instead of 56 as it was planned. Another option is to play as many games as possible until each team has played at least 50. Then decide which teams will head to the playoffs according to their point or win percentage. None of these are good options for the teams, as they would probably have to play a considerable number of back-to-back games and have even longer road trips.
The Other Divisions
Of course, the East Division is not the only one involved in this COVID situation. Minnesota is a part of the West Division. The West has had only seven games postponed since the season started. But even Minnesota’s general manager Bill Guerin is skeptical of his team’s situation.
“Just seeing what’s happened here, there definitely could be more,” Guerin said in an interview. “It’s kinda creeping its way through the team.”
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) February 8, 2021
If the COVID outbreak in Minnesota gets worse and if it strikes throughout the Colorado Avalanche, the last team Minnesota played, the league will have an even bigger issue to deal with. Right now, they seem to be waiting to see what will happen next.
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