The NHL is creeping ever closer to the start of the bizarre, reformatted 2020 postseason, which will take place in a pair of bubble ‘hub’ cities up in Canada in August.
For the Colorado Avalanche, there’s just over a week before they’ll get to play their exhibition game against the Minnesota Wild in Edmonton. They’re set to face off against their fellow Central Division play-in round attendees on July 29th, with puck drop scheduled for 2:30 PM EST/12:30 PM MST for the Wednesday game.
That leaves the Avalanche with just over a week left before they have to be fully prepared for action against another NHL team, something they’ve been working on during scrimmages at practice in Denver.
The team missed seeing Cale Makar at practice for what was now a second straight day after the Calder Trophy finalist was deemed ‘unfit to play’ in an announcement earlier in the week. The NHL has been classifying any reasons for missing practice, whether for injury or illness, as such during the highly-protected practices the 24 postseason teams have been undergoing since last week.
For those who haven’t been able to follow along, here’s what the scrimmage lines looked like during Monday’s practice:
Scrimmage lines:— AJ Haefele (@AJHaefele) July 19, 2020
Landeskog MacKinnon Rantanen
Nichushkin Kadri Donskoi
Namestnikov Compher O'Connor
Calvert Bellemare Nieto
Kamenev Jost Burakovsky
MacDonald Tynan Dries
D pairings are all over the place so I'm not listing all of those.
No Cale Makar, however
If Makar needs to miss any part of the postseason for whatever reason, that could be a huge blow for Colorado. He was a shining star for the team during the abbreviated regular season, and would almost certainly be expected as a game-changer and difference-maker in any games he plays leading up to the covid-19 - delayed Stanley Cup run.
It took months but the NHL Department of Player Safety has finally suspended Brendan Lemieux for his hit on Joonas Donskoi back on March 11. Lemieux will miss the first two games of New York’s play-in round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
This is a key week for the NHL when it comes to COVID-19 testing ahead of teams traveling to their Phase 4 cities.
NHL players need 3 negative tests spaced 48 hours apart in the 7 days prior to travel to Canada. Any positive tests after Wed or Thurs this week and they won’t hit that mark. We could be talking about players left behind until cleared. Crucial week for the leagues testing.— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) July 20, 2020
This means that teams are going to be holding their breath for a few days because this week will determine who is able to travel for the start of the playoffs and who is not. Any positive tests this week would be a huge setback.
The league reported good news on this front yesterday, as they only had two new positive cases last week as they tested more than 800 players at least once.
Also yesterday, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reported one key feature for player safety in Toronto:
An interesting feature of the NHL's "secure zone" in Toronto: It will include an underground path between the Royal York and Scotiabank Arena, allowing players and staff to walk back and forth while remaining inside the "bubble."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 20, 2020
For those unfamiliar with the city, the PATH is a system of tunnels filled with office and retail space that runs underneath most of Toronto’s main downtown business area. The PATH connects Union Station - the city’s main public transit hub - to most the Financial and Entertainment districts. Thousands of Torontonians use the PATH as a part of their daily commute to work. Johnston’s report suggests that the section that connects the Royal York Hotel to Scotia Bank Arena - a main artery of approximately 500m - will be closed to the public so that NHL teams have an isolated walk between the arena and their hotel.
Around the sports world, the San Fransisco Giants showed solidarity with the black community during the national anthem ahead of their exhibition game on Monday: