Bad news has hit the New Jersey Devils this afternoon. As initially tweeted out by Kevin Weekes, the New Jersey Devils will not have their game in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. They will also not have their Thursday night game in Pittsburgh or their home game on Saturday against the New York Rangers. The National Hockey League put out a release stating that at least the next three games scheduled for the New Jersey Devils are postponed due to four new players joining the COVID-19 Protocol list. (Thank you to Stephanie Driver for sharing it.) Here is the statement in full:
The National Hockey League announced today that as a result of four additional New Jersey Devils Players being added today to the NHL’s COVID Protocol Related Absence List, the team’s games will be postponed at least through Saturday, Feb. 6.
As an appropriate precaution, the team’s training facilities have been closed to all Players on the Club’s active roster, effective immediately, and will remain so until further notice. The League is in the process of reviewing and revising the Devils’ regular season schedule.
The Devils organization has, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of its Players, staff and community at large as set by the NHL, local, state and national agencies.
Per Corey Masisak of The Athletic, the four players are Pavel Zacha, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, and Andreas Johnsson. They join Mackenzie Blackwood, Travis Zajac, and Kyle Palmieri to the list for precautionary/positive results. Blackwood has been on it for twelve days now, he joined it on January 21. Zajac entered the list on Friday morning and Palmieri was added on Sunday, both after games. That makes seven Devils - six forwards and a goaltender - who have played games this season that are on the COVID-19 Protocol list. The taxi squad alone could not cover all of those spots and if there is something spreading among the team, then the introducing new people to it would make a bad problem worse.
The list also has three other players, although two have not been with New Jersey at all and one currently is not: Aaron Dell, Sami Vatanen, and Connor Carrick. Both Dell and Vatanen are going through the protocol so they can join the Devils. They have not been with the team or even in the United States for much of the last month. They may have to wait even longer before they can actually join the roster. Carrick has been with the team through training camp and traveled with them. He was added to the list on Saturday, as he traveled on his own from Buffalo back to New Jersey to see his wife and their recently born baby. He will need to go through protocol tests to rejoin the team. As with Dell and Vatanen, he will have to wait a little longer to do that.
As of now, there are no Sabres (whom Palmieri, Johnsson, McLeod, Zacha, and Kuokkanen played against) or Flyers (whom Zajac played against) on their team’s COVID-19 Protocol lists. I would keep an eye out if any do join the list in the next few days.
As disappointing as the news of postponement is, this is absolutely the right decision. Whatever is among the Devils roster needs to be contained. If that means moving three games to the future - which is what will happen - then that is the right call. If it means keeping everyone apart from practices and off-ice workout sessions for a week, then so be it. If it means quarantining the Binghamton roster, who are in Newark for their season, then it shall be done. This can all be made up. It can do so when the risk of spreading the Coronavirus is reduced. The health and well-being of the players and the staff surrounding them comes first. I hope these containment actions are successful and their season can resume next week.