Blue Jackets have 19 players miss practice because of COVID-19 protocols

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The Columbus Blue Jackets had 19 players miss practice Friday.

The Blue Jackets said in a statement 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 of practice for that reason.

Coach John Tortorella said the Blue Jackets would try to make the best of the situation, which comes six days before they are scheduled to open their season at the Nashville Predators on Jan. 14.

“Maybe it’s good that it happens early on here,” he said. “Try to figure out protocol, try to drill home the protocol. And how we adjust to it. I thought we had a really good day of work for the players that were here. That’s what it’s going to be sometimes. The players that are able to be in the building, those are the players that you’re going to work with. That’s all part of it.”

Tortorella said he learned players would be absent when he arrived at practice.

According to the Blue Jackets website, of the 40 healthy players in camp, 21 were on the ice, 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 goalies Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo.

“I don’t really know too much of what’s going on or whatnot,” Werenski said. “I just came here today like any other day, ready to practice and ready to get to work. But yeah, it was definitely different.”

With the Blue Jackets scheduled to have a scrimmage Sunday, Tortorella said he did not know how the situation Friday might affect that.

“It depends on what protocol is,” Tortorella said. “It depends on the testing, how many guys we have. We didn’t have enough to scrimmage today. I’m not sure what tomorrow’s practice is going be. I just told the group, everybody show up at 11. We may scrimmage. We may not. We’ll make our call then. Again, this is going to be what it’s going to be all year long. Just get ready for each day.”

The Blue Jackets have experience with a rotating lineup, given the extensive number of injuries they had during the 2019-20 season, including extended absences for forwards Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Brandon Dubinsky and Josh Anderson, and defensemen Kukan and Seth Jones, among others.

“It started pretty early this year; today,” Tortorella said. “But what our lineup is to start due to protocol and quarantine, I don’t know and I’m not going to try to predict.

“This is going to be a great experience of just approaching each and every day. Because I think each day a different thing could pop up. A team that is able to handle it and not blow themselves out of the water, just go about their business, I think is a team that’s going to survive.”

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