MONTREAL — The American-based NHL divisions have dealt with postponement challenges due to COVID-19 concerns this season. Now it’s the Canadian-based North Division’s turn.
The NHL was expected to provide details later Tuesday after a game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Canadiens was postponed Monday night after two Montreal players were placed on the league’s COVID protocol list.
The Canadiens cancelled their off-day practice Tuesday but the Oilers were back on the ice in preparation for Wednesday’s scheduled game at the Bell Centre.
“You’ve got to try to take advantage of it,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said of the unexpected break in the busy shortened season. “Amazingly we had a real up-tempo practice out there. I thought the guys were in great spirits. Maybe the extra day (off) was good for them.”
The Montreal players still had to report for COVID-19 testing but their on-ice plans remained up in the air. The team did not plan a media availability on Tuesday.
The NHL announced the postponement of Monday night’s game about a half hour before the scheduled 7 p.m. opening faceoff.
“It is a bit of a weird situation,” said Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “But obviously other teams have gone through it. It’s the situation we’re in this year. So we rolled with it and we’ll go from there.”
Forwards Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were placed on the COVID protocol list Monday. Showing up on the list doesn’t necessarily mean an individual has tested positive.
Players can go into protocol for unconfirmed results, if they’re deemed a close contact of a positive case, or if a quarantine is required.
There was no immediate word on a makeup date for the game, the first North Division matchup to be postponed this season due to COVID protocol.
“You’ve got to roll with the punches a little bit,” Tippett said. “That’s exactly where it’s at. We know we’re going to have to make up the game somewhere. It’s part of what we’re dealing with this year.
“Hopefully it’s not a big concern and you just continue to move on. You look at the game in front of you and that’s the one you’ve got to prepare for and hopefully you play well.”
The Oilers and Canadiens were also scheduled to play Friday night in Montreal.
The start time for a game between the two teams on Feb. 11 was pushed back an hour after Edmonton forward Jesse Puljujarvi was placed on the protocol list. He was deemed eligible to resume team activities two days later.
Edmonton is tied with Toronto for top spot in the North Division standings with 42 points. The Maple Leafs have two games in hand on the Oilers.
North Division teams were idle Tuesday night. The Winnipeg Jets are alone in third place with 40 points, three more than the Canadiens.
There have been 38 games postponed this season because of COVID protocol. The truncated 56-game campaign began Jan. 13.
“Players hear and they see what’s going on around the league and it’s not out of the norm to have a game (postponed),” Tippett said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s happened to us but you just deal with it and move on.”