Perhaps no team was hit harder by COVID last NHL season than the Vancouver Canucks, who had to shift around several games and it essentially wrecked their season. Now the Ottawa Senators are dealing with a full-blown outbreak and the league has postponed the rest of their games this week: Tuesday at New Jersey, Thursday vs. Nashville and Saturday vs. the New York Rangers.
The Senators aren't a great team even at full strength, but they essentially had no chance Sunday in a 4-0 loss to Calgary with 10 players in COVID protocols as well as associate coach Jack Capuano. Forward Drake Batherson was the latest player added to protocols just hours before Sunday's game. The hope is the Sens can resume play next Monday at Colorado.
As of Sunday, the team has had seven straight days where someone has tested positive. Along with Batherson, Austin Watson, Nick Golden, Josh Brown, Connor Brown, Dylan Gambrell, Matt Murray, Nikita Zaitsev, Victor Mete and Alex Formenton are in protocols. Once a player is placed in COVID-19 protocol that person is isolated from the team for 10 days.
Murray is the team's No. 1 goaltender. Batherson leads the club with seven goals and nine assists.
"Mentally (it's tough) because players come in and they don't know if they're in or not in," coach D.J. Smith said after Sunday's loss. "It's a lot of distraction. It's hard enough to win in the NHL with no distractions and no noise, let alone all the distractions that go with the testing and the last-minute pull-outs. I'm not making excuses because it's the NHL and we've got to try to find ways to win."
To try and control the outbreak, the team dressing room has been cut in half, spaces between stalls doubled to allow distancing and players moved to other rooms to reduce numbers. Players are tested multiple times daily. Basically, the team has created its own bubble.
"You're almost crossing your fingers every single day hoping that you get through with a negative (test)," said veteran defenseman Michael Del Zotto.
The San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues also have had some COVID issues this season but have not postponed games.
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