NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2021

The NHL returns with CBA exemptions to give teams COVID roster relief, several stars lament the decision to withdraw from the 2022 Olympics, plus injury updates and much more in the morning coffee headlines.

NHL COVID NEWS UPDATES

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman provided highlights of recent CBA exemptions formalized by the NHL and NHLPA to provide COVID relief to their teams.

Teams will be allowed to add a third goaltender when two regulars aren’t available. There will be an emergency salary-cap exemption allowing clubs to make emergency recalls for teams that cannot dress two goalies, six defensemen or 12 forwards. The recalled player’s cap hit cannot exceed $1 million.

The taxi squad has returned until at least the All-Star break in early February consisting of a maximum of six players who cannot be on the squad longer than 20 days. Players cannot be on it if they were part of an NHL roster on Dec. 22, are waiver-exempt, were on the roster at least 75 percent of regular-season days or played in 16 of a team’s last 20 games through Dec. 22. Goalies who dressed but didn’t play are counted as having played.

TSN: Because of seven NHL teams based in Canada, the league cannot do blanket testing of fully vaccinated, asymptomatic players due to the rules and restrictions set up by the Canadian federal and provincial governments. A lack of widespread booster availability in Canada could also affect efforts by the NHL to make an extra dose part of being considered fully vaccinated.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league could review its COVID protocol after the US Centers for Disease Control reduced its recommended 10-day isolation period to five days.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reduction in the isolation period plus the recent CBA changes could reduce the current upheaval affecting the NHL schedule by leading to fewer postponements in the coming weeks. There have also been calls for the league and PA to allow asymptomatic players to continue playing rather than undergo any isolation period but there’s no indication if that’s under serious consideration at the moment.

NHL.COM: Three more games were postponed due to COVID concerns, bringing the full number of postponements to 70. The three games are the Chicago Blackhawks at Winnipeg Jets and the home-and-home series on Wednesday and Friday between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild are trying to avoid any positive COVID tests as their Winter Classic matchup on Jan. 1 with the St. Louis Blues at Target Field draws near.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson described the stress the players are feeling trying to play with COVID lurking in the background. “Over the last two seasons, you kind of get used to it a little bit, but it’s not really about hockey, it’s about mental health,” he said. “It tears you down a little bit thinking about it all the time when you’re supposed to be playing and be good out on the ice.” He added that the players have to try to live with that, while also saying they were fortunate that no one has gotten seriously ill and are vaccinated.

SPORTSNET: Has a daily tracker of the NHL players and head coaches currently in COVID protocol. Among the latest are Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen, Detroit’s Lucas Raymond, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, Philadelphia’s Ryan Ellis, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, Toronto’s William Nylander and Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer.

MORE REACTION TO NHL WITHDRAWAL FROM 2022 OLYMPICS.

THE SCORE: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid called for a best-on-best tournament if the 2022 Winter Olympics aren’t pushed ahead by COVID in the same way the Tokyo Summer Games were moved from 2020 to 2021. “We can’t go six, seven, eight years without playing best-on-best,” said McDavid. “I’d like to see something worked out if the Olympics don’t get pushed.”

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL owners don’t like Olympics breaks because they don’t make any money from it. They only agreed to participate to get the players on board with last year’s extension to the collective bargaining agreement. However, they would be amenable to a World Cup of Hockey. That’s an NHL-controlled event staged in September that doesn’t adversely affect the regular season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were the latest NHL stars to express disappointment over the league’s decision to withdraw from the Olympics. Bergeron indicated he would’ve gone as it would’ve been his last opportunity to experience it after having played in 2010 and 2014.

Marchand has never played in an Olympic competition and this year was likely his best chance of doing so. He criticized the decision, claiming the league doesn’t care about the Olympics because they don’t make any money from it. “It’s a business and we’re an asset. Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said he would’ve gone to the Olympics despite the potential consequences of testing positive for COVID while in Beijing. Under Chinese law, anyone testing positive while in the country must quarantine three to five weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players’ frustration is understandable but the league took the necessary action and was within its rights to do so under the CBA. The postponed games brought about by the latest spread of COVID-19 threatened to derail this season. That would’ve significantly affected league revenue, in turn affecting next season’s salary cap, which also would’ve impacted the timetable for the players to repay their hockey-related revenue debt to the owners incurred last year.

IN OTHER NEWS…

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Winger Zach Hyman returns to the Oilers lineup after being sidelined by a shoulder injury since Dec. 11. Meanwhile, goaltender Mike Smith looks ready to return to action for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on Oct. 19.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust took part in full-contact practice yesterday. Rust could return to action later in the week but there’s still no set time for Malkin’s return. Meanwhile, winger Jason Zucker is listed as week-to-week with a nagging lower-body injury.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forward Bradon Tanev will require season-ending ACL surgery after suffering a knee injury on Dec. 18.

TSN: A lawsuit filed against the Chicago Blackhawks for a former high school student who claimed he was sexually assaulted by former video coach Bradley Alrich has been dismissed. Rick Westhead reports the withdrawal of the suit indicates a settlement has been reached.

THE PROVINCE: Former NHL coach Bob McCammon passed away on Dec. 23 at the age of 80. He served two stints as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers (1978-79, 1981-82 to 1983-84), two stints as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers (1985-86, 1995-96 to 1997-98) and was head coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 1987-88 to 1990-91.

DAILY DEMOCRAT: Former NHL player and coach Jim Wiley died Sunday at age 71. He spent five seasons as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks from 1972-73 to 1976-77, finishing with four goals and 14 points in 63 games. He went on to become a minor league coach from 1984-85 to 2007-08, except for one season as head coach of the San Jose Sharks in 1995-96.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the families and friends of both men.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 23, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 23, 2021

The fallout from the NHL’s withdrawal from the 2020 Winter Olympics, questions over the league’s plans to address the current COVID outbreak among its teams, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NOTE: The NHL expanded its annual holiday break to begin on Dec. 22 and ending on Dec. 26.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr believes it’s a “real shame” NHL players will miss out on another Winter Olympics. However, he acknowledged the inevitability of Wednesday’s decision to withdraw from the Games due to the COVID-19 outbreaks around the NHL and the “profound disruption” to the league’s schedule.

While the decision was out of the players’ control, Fehr said they were devastated and frustrated by the news. He declined to say whether current or former players would still attempt to participate in the Olympics. There’s also no indication whether the Bejing Games would be postponed to 2023.

NBC SPORTS: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane are among the notable NHLers to lament the league’s decision to withdraw from the Games.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports the decision caused some internal strife with the NHLPA ranks. A player agent told Murphy the players he spoke to were “ticked off”. Murphy also cited Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck telling the Winnipeg media he believed the league’s COVID protocols were “a little overkill”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those players who are “ticked off” are likely in a minority. This wasn’t the NHL yanking the rug from beneath their Olympic aspirations for spite or a change of heart. The recent COVID wave and its effect upon the league’s schedule is the culprit.

This decision was based on the effect this wave could have on hockey-related revenue. Two weeks ago, league commissioner Gary Bettman projected revenue for 2021-22 could reach $5 billion, an increase over the initial projection of $4.8 billion earlier in the fall.

Rising COVID numbers around the league, however, threaten those projections. With 48 postponed games to be made up (and possibly more if the outbreaks are sufficiently contained), the league also risked being unable to complete a full 82-game schedule on time. Going to the Olympics would eat up three valuable weeks in February that can be put toward staging those postponed games.

Shortening the schedule isn’t an option here, especially for the players. They still have to repay the owners for the overage of their share of the HRR they collected last season. That’s because the salary cap was set artificially high to ensure teams could maintain their rosters. However, it didn’t reflect actual revenue.

Under Bettman’s recent projection, the players would pay that share back in two years’ time. Shortening the season to accommodate Olympic participation would see those HRR projections fall short, meaning it would take another year for the players to pay that money back. That also means continued marginal increases in the salary cap until such time as that debt to the owners has been repaid.

The players may be disappointed in not getting a shot at Olympic gold in February but they care more about their paychecks.

The NHL’s withdrawal from the Olympics also meant a change of management and coaching for Canada and the United States. St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has stepped down as GM of Team Canada while Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin did the same for Team USA.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Armstrong hands the reins over to Hockey Canada to find suitable staff to ice a Canadian team of amateurs and former NHL players at the Beijing Games. USA Hockey will also be finding replacements for Guerin and his staff.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the NHL and NHLPA have discussed the potential reimplementation of the taxi squad and adoption of salary-cap exemptions for COVID-related roster issues for the remainder of this season.

Brooks believes ESPN is the reason why the 2022 All-Star Game remains a go in February. He also thinks the league and the PA will have to consider whether there will come a time to allow asymptomatic players who have tested positive to continue playing.

TSN: The NHL could consider rescheduling some of the Montreal Canadiens home games in January to later in the season if they cannot play in front of fans in their home arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The province of Quebec has banned fans from indoor sporting events until the end of January. The Canadiens would lose considerable revenue without fans at those games, in turn affecting the league’s hockey-related revenue for this season.

SPORTSNET: has a daily updated COVID tracker of all NHL teams. Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane were the latest notable players to enter COVID protocol.

TSN: Salim Valji wonders if there’s a glimmer of hope of keeping the Calgary Flames arena deal alive. According to Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek, the club’s ownership walked away from its partnership with the city of Calgary over a projected $9.7 million increase in the projected cost of the $600 million project. However, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation CEO John Bean claimed there were $19 million in additional infrastructure costs that he said were introduced after their July 2021 agreement, with the city seeking an additional $10 million in funding from CSEC.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Valji indicated Mayor Gondek said the city wasn’t closing the door on the deal. “We’re simply waiting for them to come back and say they found the money,” she said. By the sound of things, CSEC isn’t going to come up with it.

Still, this could be simply public posturing by Flames ownership to put the squeeze on the city. Perhaps league commissioner Bettman will get involved to sort things out if this drags on.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2021

The NHL & NHLPA withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Lightning beat the Golden Knights in the final game before the extended holiday break, the Flames ownership walks away from its arena deal, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: Multiple reports indicate the NHL and NHL Players Association intend to withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing amid concerns over rising COVID-19 cases among NHL clubs which forced the postponement of a number of games. A formal announcement, however, has yet to be made.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the delay in the announcement is the PA had to do its own internal process involving a number of calls to players. The league and PA also have to talk to the International Olympic Committee before it becomes official.

**UPDATE** 

The NHL and NHLPA officially announced this morning they will not send players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The adverse effect upon the NHL schedule by the recent COVID outbreak is the reason behind the decision. LeBrun indicated the league scheduler is already at work to determine how to make up those postponed games and fill dates during that three-week period in February that was scheduled for the Olympic break.

Chris Johnston indicates there is no ability for individual players to take a leave of absence in February to participate in the Games. He also said this decision will not affect the 2022 All-Star Game scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 5.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Withdrawing from the Olympics is a disappointment for the players who would’ve been selected to represent their countries and for hockey fans looking forward to the tournament. Nevertheless, the league and the PA had no choice.

Those postponed games have to be made up in a timely fashion without derailing the schedule or pushing it further into the spring, which would’ve meant another postseason going deep into the summer. Neither side has any intention of shortening the schedule because that would adversely affect hockey-related revenue.

NHL.COM: Steven Stamkos scored the winning goal as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in the only game remaining on the schedule before the NHL’s extended holiday break that takes effect today and runs to Dec. 26.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

Stamkos’ goal was his 65th game-winner, surpassing Martin St. Louis for the most in Lightning history. Golden Knights winger Mark Stone scored twice but left the game in the second period after tweaking a previous injury.

The Lightning played without head coach Jon Cooper, who entered COVID protocol before the games. Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and winger Evgenii Dadonov also entered the protocol yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet has a full list of players and coaches currently in COVID protocol that is updated daily.

CALGARY SUN: The owners of the Flames released a statement yesterday indicating they’re walking away from its multimillion-dollar plan with the city of Calgary to replace the aging Saddledome. Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corps cited the growing price tag of the planned new arena, which would’ve been built under a cost-sharing agreement with the city.

The sticking point is reportedly less than $10 million (1.5 percent of the projected $634 million) for infrastructure and climate change mitigation that the city is asking the Flames ownership to pick up.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This seems like a squabble over a pittance when factoring in the total cost of the arena plan. The Flames will reportedly continue to use the Saddledome but they can’t stay there forever.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman got involved in smoothing things over when the plans for constructing Rogers Place in Edmonton threatened to derail several years ago. Perhaps he’ll have to do the same in Calgary.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: Boston Bruins defenseman Jakub Zboril will miss the remainder of this season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He underwent surgery last week.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek could be sidelined for a while. He was spotted wearing a sling on his arm following an injury suffered during their 7-4 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday.

SPORTSNET: The province of Alberta has announced restrictions on the capacity for sporting events that limits attendance at Flames and Oilers home games to 50 percent. Those restrictions also apply to the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton and Red Deer.

DAILY FACEOFF: Speaking of the World Juniors, Montreal Canadiens prospect Kaiden Guhle was named captain of Team Canada while Ottawa Senators prospect Jake Sanderson will captain Team USA.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2021

The NHL and NHLPA agree to begin its holiday break on Wednesday as COVID cases continue to spread among the teams, the three stars of the week are revealed, an update on the Coyotes arena dispute, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league and the NHL Players Association agreed to commence its holiday break on Wednesday, Dec. 22, as COVID cases continue to spread among its 32 teams.

The two remaining games on the schedule will be played today as the Washington Capitals face off against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Vegas Golden Knights.

Players will report back to their teams on Sunday, Dec. 26, for testing, practice and/or travel only. No individual in a team’s traveling party shall enter team facilities (other than for testing purposes) until they have a negative test result.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rapid spread of the coronavirus and the resultant multiple game postponements left the league and the PA with no choice but to commence its holiday break two days earlier than planned. The hope is it will slow the spread and allow players emerging from mandatory 10-day quarantine more time to return to their respective lineups.

This move casts further doubt over the NHL’s participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. An announcement is expected in the coming days.

SPORTSNET: provides a daily updated list of players currently in COVID protocol and the number of games postponed.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames reopened their practice facility yesterday after a third straight day without a positive COVID test. The club was the hardest hit by the latest wave with 19 players, three coaches and 10 support staff in COVID protocol.

NHL.COM: Jamie Benn and Miro Heiskanen each had a goal and an assist as the Dallas Stars downed the Minnesota Wild 7-4 in the only game on Monday’s schedule as the other four were postponed. Kiril Kaprizov had a goal and two assists for the Wild, who’ve lost four straight games.

Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin, St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko, and Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 19, 2021.

SPORTSNET: cites reports indicating the Arizona Coyotes met the deadline for paying the remainder of its outstanding bills (totaling $930K) with the city of Glendale. The city council had threatened to lock the club out of Gila River Arena for the remainder of the season unless it paid off its outstanding debts for this year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes will remain in Gila River Arena for the remainder of 2021-22. However, the city of Glendale announced it will not renew its lease with the club following this season.

The Coyotes have submitted a bid to build a new arena in Tempe, Arizona. Assuming they receive approval it will take several years before they’ll be ready to move into the new venue. It’s believed the club is exploring local alternatives.

THE SCORE: cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting that the Buffalo Sabres sought a high asking price from the Anaheim Ducks for Jack Eichel. He said the Sabres wanted Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale and two first-rounders but the Ducks didn’t want to give up that much. Eichel was subsequently traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Alex Tuch, prospect Peyton Krebs, a first-round pick and a second-rounder.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Zegras and Drysdale are two promising youngsters playing key roles in the Ducks’ surprising improvement this season.

TSN: The Los Angeles Kings placed defenseman Alex Edler (left ankle fracture) and Sean Walker on long-term injury reserve and called up center Quinton Byfield.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Jacob Zboril recently underwent knee surgery. He’s been sidelined since Dec. 2 and there’s no word as to how long he’ll be on the shelf.

NHL.COM’s Dave Stubbs reports former NHL goaltender Curt Ridley has passed away at age 70. He played 104 games over six seasons from 1974-75 to 1980-81 with the New York Ranger, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Ridley’s family, friends and former teammates.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

Cross-border games are postponed until after the upcoming holiday break as the number of teams shut down by COVID outbreaks reaches seven while Olympic participation is in question. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CROSS-BORDER GAMES POSTPONED, OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION IN JEOPARDY

NHL.COM: The league announced yesterday all cross-border games between Canadian and American clubs have been postponed through the upcoming holiday break period (Dec. 24-26) over COVID-19 concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 16 teams (Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets) won’t be playing this week for COVID-related reasons.

Despite the increasing number of positive COVID tests among players, the league and the NHL Players Association agreed to continue the 2021-22 schedule. That decision was based on advice by medical experts on both sides who point to the low number of cases among the players with concerning symptoms or serious illness.

Given the rising number of postponed games and its potential effect upon the schedule, the league and the PA are discussing whether players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last night reported there’s a “real sense” the players won’t be taking part in the Olympics but there’s nothing official yet. A further announcement is expected in the coming days.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Robin Lehner made 29 saves to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to their fifth straight win by beating the New York Islanders 4-3. Shea Theodore and Nicolas Roy scored in the shootout to give the Golden Knights the win. Theodore also scored twice in regulation. The Golden Knights have won five straight and taken over first place in the Pacific Division with 40 points. Vegas captain Mark Stone missed the game with an upper-body injury while the Islanders placed Matt Martin and Robin Salo on COVID protocol before this match.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was Lehner’s first game back on Long Island since he last played for the Islanders in 2018-19. He credits Isles fans for helping him battle bipolar disorder and addiction as he got his career back on track.

Paul Stastny scored twice and collected his 500th career assist and Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and three assists as the Winnipeg Jets doubled up the St. Louis Blues 4-2. Earlier in the day, the Jets announced captain Blake Wheeler (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve.

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their win streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, who’ve now lost six straight.

Three unanswered goals lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Washington Capitals 3-2. Garret Sparks made 33 saves for his first NHL win since 2019 as the Kings have won four of their last six contests. Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Michael Sgarbossa and Kings center Phillip Danault missed this game as they were placed on the COVID protocol list. Earlier in the day, the Capitals placed winger Tom Wilson (upper body) on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 10.

IN OTHER HEADLINES…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said he was hit hard by COVID-19 symptoms during the first two days after he tested positive on Dec. 2 and went into the mandatory 10-day quarantine. He’s since recovered and rejoined his teammates during practice on Sunday.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets canceled practice yesterday after Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Gabriel Carlsson were placed on the COVID protocol list.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning center Brayden Point is expected to make his return to action from a shoulder injury on Dec. 28 against the Canadiens. He’s been sidelined for a month.

NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly for four games for interference against Dallas Stars forward Tanner Kero on Saturday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kero was stretchered from the ice and taken to a hospital for observation following the hit by Connolly. He’s reportedly been released and is resting at home.

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes senior director of hockey development Matt Shott passed away Sunday following a 10-month bout with liver cancer. He was 34.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Shott’s family, friends and the Coyotes organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 19, 2021

The NHL implements enhanced COVID guidelines as positive tests keep rising and more games are postponed. Check out the latest plus recaps of Saturday’s games in today’s morning coffee headlines

LATEST NHL COVID-19 UPDATES AND POSTPONEMENTS

NHL.COM: The NHL and NHL Players Association yesterday announced the immediate adoption of enhanced COVID-19 measures given the emergence of the Omicron variant and the rising number of positive tests among players. The measures will be in place until at least Jan. 7, 2022.

The notable changes include daily testing for players except for off days. Additional pre-game testing could be implemented on a case-by-case basis when an outbreak occurs among a team following consultation with the league and the PA.

Players and all members of the training staff are “strongly recommended” to wear masks at teams facilities and in public indoor places and maintain physical distancing during meals. They are also banned from eating or drinking in indoor restaurants and bars open to the general public. They must avoid public transport and reduce interactions with the general public. Club-organized parties and autograph sessions are prohibited.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the NHL has discussed pausing its schedule until Jan. 1. While there are some players who support this idea, Friedman said most players and teams don’t want to do that. They prefer to see where the protocols and testing go before committing to a schedule pause.

If there is a pause, Friedman said there are those wondering if the players will agree not to go to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February. However, there has to be clarity on this issue.

The league is asking players to get a booster. There’s been a high turnout among the Tampa Bay Lightning and their AHL affiliate in Syracuse for boosters. The hope is other teams will follow the lead of the defending Stanley Cup champions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regarding a possible schedule pause, TSN’s Darren Dreger suggested it could come down to whether there are enough available players to actually play the games.

The league and the PA seem to be holding out hope that they can reach the upcoming Christmas break (Dec. 24-26). That would allow a bit of time to slow the spread and allow for players who previously tested positive to return to the lineup following their mandatory 10-day quarantine.

That will depend upon whether the pace of positive tests slows in the coming days. It could reach the point where the league will have no choice but to implement a pause until New Year’s Day.

SPORTSNET is also daily tracking the number of positive COVID-19 tests among the NHL teams.

The latest to enter COVID protocols on Saturday include the following:

BOSTON BRUINS: Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar. The Bruins schedule has also been postponed until after the upcoming Christmas holiday break.

DETROIT RED WINGS: Filip Zadina, Givani Smith, Carter Rowney, Alex Nedeljkovic and coaches Jeff Blashill and Alex Tanguay.

EDMONTON OILERS: Jesse Puljujarvi.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Cal Petersen.

MONTREAL CANADIENS: Artturi Lehkonen. They also placed forwards Mathieu Perreault and Joel Armia on injured reserve for non-COVID-related reasons.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS had their remaining games leading up to the holiday break postponed by the league.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: P.K. Subban.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Patrik Nemeth.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Max Willman. Goaltender Carter Hart was unavailable for Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators owing to a non-COVID-related illness.

ST. LOUIS BLUES: Oskar Sundqvist.

SEATTLE KRAKEN: Jamie Oleksiak.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: Jack Campbell, T.J. Brodie, Travis Dermott and head coach Sheldon Keefe. The Leafs games for Saturday against Vancouver and Sunday against Seattle have been postponed.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Tyler Myers.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin tallied his first career hat trick to lead his club over the New Jersey Devils 5-2. Tyler Bertuzzi also scored twice for the Wings. The Devils have lost nine of their last 10 games.

Joe Pavelski tallied two goals and set up two others as the Dallas Stars snapped a five-game losing skid by downing the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on an overtime goal by John Klingberg. Stars center Roope Hintz collected three assists.

There was a scary moment in the first period when Stars forward Tanner Kero was stretchered from the ice following a hit by Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly, who was ejected from the game. Kero was later reported to be conscious, alert and responsive but was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.

The Carolina Hurricanes (43 points) reclaimed first place in the overall standings with a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jesper Fast each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes.

Leon Draisaitl picked up three assists as the Edmonton Oilers downed the Seattle Kraken 5-3. Warren Foegele scored two goals and Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist.

An overtime goal by Travis Sanheim lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Ottawa Senators 4-3. Claude Giroux scored a goal and tied Bill Barber for the second-most points (883) in Flyers history. Alex Formenton had a goal and an assist for the Senators. Earlier in the day, the Senators indicated defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is expected to miss four weeks with a heel injury.