Avs, Panthers games ppd. thru Christmas break

NHL

The NHL has postponed games for the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche until after Christmas break.

That news came down Friday as COVID-19 cases continue to climb throughout the NHL.

At the time of publication, Florida had seven players in COVID protocols: Sam Bennett, Radko Gudas, Aaron Ekblad, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Lomberg, Brandon Montour and Carter Verhaeghe. The Avalanche had five players missing: Andre Burakovsky, J.T. Compher, Darcy Kuemper, Cale Makar and Devon Toews.

More positive cases may have been identified but have not yet been announced.

The Panthers’ next three games prior to Christmas were against Minnesota, Chicago and Nashville. Colorado was set to face Tampa, Detroit, Buffalo and Boston.

Also on Friday, the NHL announced that Saturday’s game between Boston and Montreal would be postponed. The Bruins have been dealing with their own COVID problems, having Patrice Bergeron, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Brad Marchand, Craig Smith, Oskar Steen and Jeremy Swayman unavailable.

In addition, the Calgary Flames will not return to play until after Christmas, either. Calgary has had a teamwide outbreak including 18 players and multiple coaches.

All three teams — Boston, Florida and Colorado — played on Thursday night with limited rosters.

The NHL is still hopeful it will not have to take a leaguewide pause, but league office sources tell ESPN’s Emily Kaplan they can’t say anything definitive right now because the situation is too fluid. However, the more games are postponed, the less likely it is that a revamped NHL schedule will allow for players to take a three-week break in February for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The NHL has mandated enhanced protocols for NHL teams, including daily testing and restrictions for players and staff on the road. Those are in effect until at least mid-January.

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