The Bruins had just three players on the ice at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday as 43-year-old captain Zdeno Chara, defenseman John Moore and fourth-liner Par Lindholm worked out while the B’s staff snapped photos and took some video of the guys getting their ice time in during Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play.
But it could begin to be a lot more than simple trios on the ice as the NHL is stepping things up in Phase 2 with 12 players allowed on the ice together during voluntary workouts starting on Tuesday. Previously, the limit had been six players on the ice at one time with 11 total players testing positive for COVID-19 among the 200-plus players that have participated since June 8, per the NHL.
Tuukka Rask told Bruins season ticket holders during a virtual town hall Monday he expects to begin practicing Wednesday, provided the COVID-19 test he underwent Monday has negative results.
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“I guess I should probably start skating a little bit if we’re going to start playing hockey? I haven’t been able to do that a lot,” said Rask, who has made it a practice to stay far away from the ice during bye weeks and the offseason even when he wasn’t restricted by a global pandemic like he’s been over the last three months. “I just got my latest testing done today for the coronavirus and if that comes negative I will skate Wednesday and then three days a week going from there. Then we’ll see what happens with the training camp, but a little bit working out and skating in the future.”
The ramping up makes sense given that the NHL has set a July 10 date to start training camps across the league while players continue to filter into their home cities from across the world. The NHL is expected to hold two-week training camps before traveling to the Hub Cities with a July 30 date set to begin playing games during the qualifying round of the postseason along with the round-robin games between the top seeds.
Of course, not everybody is totally on board with ramping up the participation numbers on the ice. Steven Stamkos posted a “hmm” scratching chin emoji while quote-tweeting the report after news broke last weekend that the Tampa Bay Lightning had to shut down voluntary practices after a number of players and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
At the same time, Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews also reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 as the NHL balances pushing forward with the predictable positive test results taking place around the league as players travel back to their NHL cities.