COVID-19 continues to have impact on Red Wings, NHL

Detroit News

Boston — COVID-19 continues to plague the NHL, as it is the world at large.

The NHL sent a memo to all 32 teams Monday effectively canceling all holiday parties, in addition to public engagements, charity events and autograph sessions.

Ottawa and the New York Islanders have had multiple games postponed to future dates, and around the NHL, an increasing number of players and coaches have entered protocol.

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser is currently the only Red Wings player in COVID-19 protocol. Dylan Larkin was a false-positive two weeks ago.

The Wings’ opponent Tuesday, the Boston Bruins, saw their coach Bruce Cassidy enter protocol earlier in the day.

“It’s something that we had hoped we wouldn’t have to be in these spots as a league,” coach Jeff Blashill said after Tuesday’s morning skate regarding the virus’ grip on the NHL. “As a league we’d hoped there wouldn’t be games canceled, but that is what has happened, and numerous people have been in protocol and some teams have had significant impacts.

“We have to balance as a group staying as vigilant as possible while also living. So, we’ll keep making those decisions as we move forward, how to best approach it. It does seem, obviously, like the virus can hit people and groups at any time. It’s something that even when you take great precaution, you can still get struck with it, whether it be individually or as a group. If that happens, we’ll have to deal with it at that moment.”

Last season, teams were essentially in a bubble when playing on the road, eating as a group, staying in hotels other than going for a short walk outside, and taking precautions in the locker and weight rooms in arenas.

The NHL hasn’t mandated any of those measures, yet, but the Wings have briefly talked about possibly moving toward something similar.

“We’ve talked, we’ve had conversations,” Blashill said. “I know certain teams have done stuff like that and have actually gotten hit with COVID hard. So, it’s really hard to predict. There’s so much of your life that if you don’t shut down or don’t end up living in a bubble then what you have to do is take the best precaution you can. You have to mask when possible, you have to wash your hands, you have to do those things that have been proven effective in helping combat it.

“Coming into the season we didn’t want to get to where we were last year. I don’t think anybody was interested in doing that for a full season again. But if that’s what it takes, then we’ll have to kind of cross that bridge when we get to it. It might be sooner than later, I don’t know that, but those talks have happened.”

The only unvaccinated player in the NHL is the Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi. Players currently aren’t mandated to get a booster shot, it being a personal choice.

Olympic question

The NHL and its players are planning in February on participating in the Winter Olympics in China. A final decision on whether to attend, or not, must be made in the next several weeks.

The NHL players association has fought hard for its members to have the chance to participate in the Olympics, but there have been reports of players being increasingly hesitant with the virus spiking again.

Blashill understands both sides to the equation.

“It’s one of those things everybody wants to go, certainly the players do and I know the coaches involved do, and all those people want to go and it can be great for the game,” Blashill said. “Obviously we’ll see how we go with cancellations with games and it gets a little bit worrisome with the Islanders, after Ottawa got canceled, and hope it ends at that.

“The NHL has done a real good job of making decisions, and not making decisions until they’ve had to. When you’re dealing with unknowns, as you’re dealing with what we’ve been going through for two years with COVID, there are a lot of unknowns and you try not to make the decision until you absolutely have to do, and have all the information at hand.”

Insurance on hand

The Red Wings recalled forward Kyle Criscuolo from minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids in case a player with a minor injury, Blashill said, couldn’t play. Blashill didn’t divulge which player it was.

In 12 games with the Griffins, Criscuolo had 12 points (five goals, seven assists).

“You want to make sure you have the numbers if you can,” Blashill said. “Grand Rapids isn’t playing, and you’re not necessarily taking away an opportunity from playing a hockey game, and it gives us some insurance.”

Kraken at Red Wings 

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

Outlook: The expansion Seattle Kraken (8-13-1) make their first appearance at LCA. … Seattle is playing with confidence, having won four of its last five games…C Jaden Schwartz (17 points) and RW Jordan Eberle (11 goals) have sparked the offense.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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