As you probably know by now, COVID-19 has been ravaging through the NHL over the past month, postponing over 80 games in that time. As games start to come back, US teams aren’t being told to take many precautions, including mask mandates or proof of vaccination in many states. However, the big contributor for this story is capacity limits. US teams don’t have any, whereas Canadian teams are down to 50%, 25%, or even none at the moment as directed by their respective provinces.

For the NHL, every game that goes by without fans in the stands is a major hit to revenue, so Canadian teams are essentially getting shut out from home games for the time being. One announcement today rescheduled a Leafs home game in January against the New York Islanders for a Leafs away game in April against the same Islanders. It doesn’t matter that NYS is in a much worse health state at the moment, all that matters is where can fans have their butts in seats.

To that point, as games for Canadian teams keep getting pushed farther and farther back, it’s an open question whether the NHL will have to push back the regular season (even with the buffer from no Olympics) or to start cancelling games for some teams. For a team like Ottawa, cancelling games is a non-starter for their financial state. On the bright side, them being so bad means it doesn’t matter when you get those games in — squeezed within the regular season or leaked underneath the playoffs.

So yes, the Ottawa Senators could be a hockey team this year that plays games during the playoffs. I assume it’s as close to the playoffs as they’re going to get for a while. They could even have their own series with the Montreal Canadiens, who have an astonishing 22 players and staff in COVID protocol right now.

Elliotte Friedman wrote about this a little bit in 32 Thoughts, labelling January 17th as a deadline to get games in no matter what. All the Canadian teams are up against it right now, including Calgary who was the first to get shut down, Toronto obviously, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and possibly Edmonton right now as they seemingly have an outbreak now. [Sportsnet]

“Thanks to attendance restrictions, Canadian teams are grinding to a halt — taking a chance they’ll be able to make up in front of larger crowds. Edmonton’s only missed four games, but have just one scheduled over the 12 days after Wednesday. Meanwhile, recovering Calgary is preparing for its third game in 24 days; Ottawa’s on a stretch of one in 20; Toronto two in 22; Vancouver three in 22. Winnipeg went 13 days without a game and Montreal isn’t playing at home.”

Further to that “get games in” deadline, the NHL is seemingly happy with 16-skater rosters, which is what the Habs had to work with in their trip through Tampa, Florida, and Carolina. Even if the teams in a vacuum were miles apart in talent, it was still a live car crash of a hockey game because of the short roster, weariness, and lack of practice that drove those score lines up (6-14 over three games).

I just think it would be kinda hilarious if Toronto and Calgary were in the playoffs, the Jets and Canucks are fighting for 15th overall, and the Sens and Habs were all fighting for lottery positions at the same time.

Back to the Edmonton thing. Connor McDavid and Derek Ryan tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, and I’m sure the team is crossing everything for the re-test to be negative. The Oilers play the Leafs tonight in Toronto under the capacity limit of no fans (MLSE can afford the hit with all the sponsorships and TV deals).

Auston Matthews tested positive on a rapid test before testing negative on a PCR, so he could still be good to play, although assistant coach Dean Chynoweth is in protocol. A month ago, I think this game would’ve been postponed, but I think now the NHL is just going to say push through. After the Habs game last week where they had to play with 16, they just don’t care anymore.

Meanwhile in other quarantine news (yep, that’s all everything’s about now), Dallas Stars forward, who should’ve won the Calder last year by the way, was in COVID protocol this week where he got to play video games with his little brother, Nick Robertson! Yeah, we know him! Nick has been injured for months now with a fractured fibula and it appears now also caught COVID alongwith pretty much the entire Marlies team in December. It’s unclear at the moment whether Nick’s leg is healed, he’s out of protocol, both, or neither have happened yet.

Canada’s Olympic hockey team is bubbling up two weeks ahead of the Winter Olympics so they can travel, and take back gold.

Last piece of news is finally not COVID-related. The Minnesota Wild have put Victor Rask on waivers. Remember when he was traded for Nino Niederreiter? Yeah, well done lizard-GM. Zane McIntyre, by the way, signed an NHL deal, he’s on waivers so he can go to the Iowa Wild, Elliotte has it wrong on his tweets. Always trust Katya with this stuff.