Blue Jackets have 18 players return to practice

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Eighteen of the 19 Columbus Blue Jackets players who missed practice Friday returned Saturday.

The Blue Jackets said in a statement Friday that they “held a number of players out of today’s scheduled practice out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols.” It was not clear how many of the 19 players were held out for that reason.

Forward Mikko Koivu was the only player who was not on the ice after missing practice Friday. Goalie Elvis Merzlikins, who was on the ice Friday, did not practice Saturday.

“Everybody’s doing the same thing,” coach John Tortorella said. “You know, I look at it this way: If we complain about one thing here, as far as what’s going on worldwide in real life, we need to give our head a shake. So we are fortunate to be doing the things we love. And is it different? Yeah. Is it going to be more and more different each and every day? Probably.”

According to the Blue Jackets website, of the 40 healthy players in camp, 21 were on the ice Friday, including 10 from their NHL group: forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cam Atkinson, Kevin Stenlund and Riley Nash; defensemen Zach Werenski, Scott Harrington, Gabriel Carlsson and Dean Kukan; and Merzlikins and goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

“We’re going to have situations like that again,” Tortorella said. “I was driving in this early this morning, waiting for [a phone call], and I was ready to go one way or another, small group or a big group, scrimmage or not scrimmage, all those things that are in your head. You say about being unprepared, I think what it is, you’re almost more prepared, because you have all the audibles in your head and what you need to do, because that’s just the way it is. That’s the landscape.”

Columbus is scheduled to open its season at the Nashville Predators on Jan. 14.

The Dallas Stars’ first two games of this season, at the Florida Panthers, were postponed Friday after six players and two staff members recently tested positive for COVID-19. Those games, also the first of the season for the Panthers, were scheduled for Jan. 14 and 15.

The Pittsburgh Penguins said they canceled practices and a scrimmage scheduled for Saturday “out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19.”

NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika contributed to this report

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