Canucks’ return delayed; updated North Division schedule coming Friday
The Canucks will not return to play Friday against Edmonton as scheduled. According to the NHL, they will be given extra time to recover from a COVID-19 outbreak that has kept the team off the ice since the end of March.
“The decision to extend the period prior to the team’s resumption of play was made to provide Club staff and Players with additional time for recovery and preparation following its recent COVID outbreak,” reads the release from the league. “The NHL made the decision with input from the League’s, NHLPA’s and Club’s medical groups.”
A revised schedule for the North Division will be released on Friday.
It’s been almost a month since the Canucks’ last game -- a loss to Winnipeg on March 24. Since then, over 25 players and staff have tested positive. Originally, Vancouver was supposed to resume playing Friday at home against Edmonton and Saturday versus Toronto.
There remains the possibility that the Canucks do not play again until Sunday or Monday, and that Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs will be rescheduled as well.
[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]
Seven Canucks were listed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Three remained as of Thursday’s update: Nils Hoglander, Nate Schmidt, and Jake Virtanen.
The delay comes a day after candid comments from Canucks forward J.T. Miller, who was bewildered the team would start playing again so soon after getting back on the ice after a few weeks away.
“I think it’s kind of crazy,” he said. “I know that everybody’s got a job to do, but to expect pretty much our entire team to be ready to play [with] one practice and a pregame skate is a little bit hard to comprehend.”
The Canucks’ rearranged schedule originally had them set to finish with 19 games in 31 days. We’ll see if Friday’s update reveals a condensed final few weeks or if the regular season is extended even further.
May 8 was the original end date for the 2020-21 NHL regular season, but that has been pushed back twice -- first to May 11 and now to May 16.
“This is going to be a really tough challenge,” Miller said Wednesday. “And you know, even for me, skating a couple times, my lungs are screaming and definitely not in game shape at all right now from sitting around and not doing much. I couldn’t imagine what these guys [players who tested positive] are going to have to go through to get back and be ready to play at a high level ...
“I’d never thought I’d be in this scenario in my career. It’s going to be a start of a really long stretch, short but hard stretch at the end of the year here. A reaction? I don’t know. It’s not ideal, obviously, for anybody, but we have a job to do, I guess.”