Canucks up to 14 players on NHL COVID-19 protocol list

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The Vancouver Canucks have 14 players on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list after seven were added Saturday.

Forwards Travis Boyd, Jayce Hawyrluk, Bo Horvat, Tyler Motte and Brandon Sutter; defenseman Tyler Myers; and goalie Thatcher Demko were added after five players Friday, one Thursday and one Tuesday. An unidentified coach also is in protocol.

The Canucks have had four games postponed by the NHL, through April 6: at the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, and at the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday and Tuesday, in addition to a home game against the Calgary Flames that was not played Wednesday.

Vancouver remains scheduled to play April 8 at Calgary. The Canucks cannot return to practice before April 6. Rescheduled dates for their games have not been announced. 

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet on Friday there has been no consideration given to shortening the Canucks’ season to fewer than the 56 scheduled games. 

“Each situation we have dealt with has involved its own unique facts and circumstances,” Daly wrote in an email. “So, there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution. I wouldn’t consider this situation to be any more worrisome or concerning than any other. The potential variant aspect and the timing within the season are just two potentially distinguishing facts from some other cases. Nothing more.”

Forward Adam Gaudette was the first Canucks player added to the protocol list; he left practice Tuesday following what coach Travis Green said was a positive test for the coronavirus. Defenseman Travis Hamonic was added Thursday.

“I guess there’s always reminders as far as the importance of your safety, and following the guidelines and the rules that the League has set forth,” Green said Wednesday morning. “And not just the League, but the government.”

The other players are defensemen Alexander Edler and Quinn Hughes; forwards Zack MacEwen and Antoine Roussel; and goalie Braden Holtby.

The Canucks have not played since March 24, a 5-1 loss to the Jets. Utica, the American Hockey League affiliate of Vancouver, has not played since March 10 due to the AHL COVID-19 protocol. The Comets had 10 games postponed, through April 5.

Winnipeg will play at the Ottawa Senators on Monday; that game was scheduled for May 7.

“You’re hoping they can all kind of rebound and become the players that they were, that everybody gets healthy, that they’re fine,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice told the Jets website. “There’s also a reminder of vigilance here, that it’s not the time to get casual.”

Vancouver’s road trip is scheduled to end with games at Calgary on April 10 and at Edmonton on April 12 and 14.

“Whether we have someone that gets it or not, everyone is trying their best to abide by the protocols,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller said. “The timing is obviously not great — there’s no good timing — but it doesn’t change anything. No matter what the circumstances, no one wants to get it, not one wants to spread it, nothing changes.”

Miller and Vancouver defenseman Jordie Benn were sidelined at the start of the season due to protocol. Benn missed six games; Miller missed three.

Hamonic opted out of the NHL Return to Play last season while with the Flames, citing family concerns. His daughter was hospitalized with a respiratory virus as an infant, and he had a newborn son.

Eight games in the Scotia North Division have been postponed this season, all since March 22. The Montreal Canadiens had four home games postponed due to COVID-19 protocol from March 22-28.

“Some of the American teams had gone through it earlier on and now it’s starting to hit our division,” Oilers forward Jujhar Khaira said. “It highlights how careful we have to be away from the rink. It’s such a short part of the year where we have to make a few sacrifices, staying in and not going out for dinner or to the grocery store and that kind of stuff.”

Edmonton played three games on a nine-day road trip from March 22-30; it was scheduled to play five. The Oilers defeated the Flames 3-2 at home Friday.

“You confront [the changes] head on,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. “If you feel sorry for yourself, you’re going to be left behind. You might as well deal with what you can deal with. That’s how we play and how we control our emotions and how we go about our day to day. You have to stay focused on the task at hand, and that’s finding ways to win hockey games. Sometimes stuff happens that changes the dynamics of what’s going in the schedule and you can’t let that stuff bother you.” 

Edmonton is scheduled to play at Montreal on Monday and at Ottawa on Wednesday and Friday.

“I think it’s just one of those things, it’s how the season and the world has been, it’s one of those things you have to roll with the punches,” Khaira said. “I think the League, they’re trying their best to do what they can. The guys want to play, and at this point you have to roll with the punches and just be ready when the games are scheduled.” 

There have been 50 games postponed since the NHL season began Jan. 13, including 45 because of protocol. Five games have been postponed because of weather-related issues.

The NHL regular-season schedule has been extended to May 11; it was originally to end May 8.

“I think the schedule some ways is almost irrelevant,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said. “You know you’re going to play every other day, and the teams had mostly had their longer breaks in their schedule, so they have to get the games in, in those few days at the end in early May, where the schedule was over on Saturday, you know that it’s going to be extended at some point. I think you just have to focus on the game. It’s like going to those tournaments when you were kids, hope you get to play three on Saturday.” 

NHL.com independent correspondents Derek Van Diest and Kevin Woodley contributed to this report

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