The NHL has postponed two more games for coronavirus-related reasons, making it five so far this season.
Upcoming New York Islanders games Sunday at the Rangers and Tuesday at the Philadelphia Flyers were postponed after additional members of the team went into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Saturday.
General manager Lou Lamoriello said forward Casey Cizikas became the latest player to test positive. The Islanders would have had as many as eight players unavailable.
The league said the possibility of additional spread contributed to the Islanders’ games through at least Tuesday being called off for now. Cizikas joined captain Anders Lee, fellow forwards Ross Johnston and Kieffer Bellows and defensemen Zdeno Chara, Adam Pelech and Andy Greene in protocol, and winger Josh Bailey only recently resumed skating after being quarantined.
Lamoriello said as recently as Wednesday that none of the players who were positive for the virus had tested negative to clear the way to return. It would take three consecutive days of negative tests to reopen team training facilities and resume play. The entire Islanders team is vaccinated against COVID-19.
While Lamoriello said Saturday he had not asked the league office for postponements, the absences and a long-term injury to defenseman Ryan Pulock were making things very difficult for New York. The short-handed Islanders fell 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home Friday night, their eighth consecutive loss.
“We're kind of piecemealing it,” coach Barry Trotz said afterward. “The young guys who have come in, they’re doing what they can. ... They're doing the job that they can. There's no one not trying right now.”
The NHL postponed three Ottawa Senators games in mid-November because of that team’s virus outbreak. One of those games, at the New Jersey Devils, has been rescheduled for Dec. 6.
Ottawa is 0-3-0 since resuming play and put goaltender Matt Murray on waivers Saturday. Murray allowed four goals on 27 shots in a loss Wednesday, his only start since being activated off the COVID-19 list.
When the NHL agreed to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the league and the NHL Players' Association added the caveat that they could withdraw based on pandemic conditions. It would take a significant amount of postponements to trigger the NHL/NHLPA withdrawal for a material disruption to the season that would require the 2 1/2-week Olympic break in February to make up games.
The league and players have until Jan. 10 to pull out without financial penalty. Canada named Claude Julien coach for two international tournaments in December as part of a potential plan B staff if the NHL does not participate in the Olympics.