NHL Training Camp News: Ouellet, Bitetto talk COVID-19 experiences

Thursday’s NHL training camp news was highlighted by Canadiens defenseman Xavier Ouellet and Jets blue liner Anthony Bitetto revealing they both tested positive for COVID-19.

After testing negative once camp opened, Ouellet said he then tested positive, was asymptomatic, quarantined and then had multiple negative tests.

“I had zero symptoms, there was not one point where I felt sick or anything,” he said. “I don’t really know if I actually had it or not. But the protocols with the league and the governments are pretty strict and they’re there to keep it safe for everyone. So I had to isolate myself and wait a little bit before I could come back which is what I did. But since that positive test I’ve tested negative every day and felt healthy, zero symptoms.”

Bitetto joined his teammates for the first time in Phase 3 on Thursday. He explained his absence was due to contracting the virus while he was in Nashville last month. He added he did experience symptoms and quarantined for 29 days.

“I had very mild symptoms, I had shortness of breath, but otherwise there wasn’t really much to it for me,” he said. “I was pretty lucky with not having to deal with a lot of the more serious symptoms.”

Oshie’s Kraken reaction

T.J. Oshie is a Washington state native, so it was a natural thing to ask him his thoughts on the Seattle Kraken name.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess being from Everett. I was hoping they would go with the Totems. Kraken’s different.”

While he may not love the name, the Capitals forward is happy to see pro hockey return to his home state.

“More importantly than the name, I think it’s very exciting for the people of Seattle and Washington and the Pacific Northwest to get a hockey team up there and another team to cheer about,” Oshie said. “Obviously, the Seahawks and Mariners are two of the sports (teams) I grew up with watching along with the Sonics so it’ll be nice to have another NHL team up there. Hopefully, I can see my family a little bit more too.”

[2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule / NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Toews responds to report he voted “no” on NHL CBA/RTP

After taking a day for “maintenance,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was back on the ice Thursday. A Sportsnet report said that he was one of two members of the NHLPA’s Executive Board to vote against the Collective Bargaining Agreement/Return to Play package that was approved earlier this month.

Toews denied he was against the plan.

“I don’t know where he got that from,” he said. “I’ll be completely honest, I don’t know how much I want to get into my reasons why, but I wasn’t one of the guys who voted no. I voted yes. If anything, I kind of wanted the guys in our room to educate themselves on what was going on, to the best of their ability and ultimately make their own decision.

“But deep down, I wanted guys to really think about voting yes. That’s where I stood. So I don’t know where that came from and maybe who gave him the impression that I voted no.”

While players may have their issues with parts of either agreement, in the end there’s labor peace and we’ll have hockey in a week’s time. Toews certainly wasn’t a fan of everything that was voted on, but understood there was not going to be universal agreement.

“There’s no perfect scenario right now,” Toews said. “Am I happy that we’re returning to play? Am I happy the NHL and players agreed, even though the agreement and the details of everything are imperfect? You can stress out about it until the cows come home, but I’m happy that both sides were able to come to a place where we could agree to take that step forward toward eventually resuming what we all assume is somewhat of a normal life.

“I think for our fans in Chicago, they’re excited to watch Hawks on TV and I think it can provide some form of relief and inspiration and feeling of comfort. So I am happy that hockey’s going to be going again shortly. So yeah, I mean, we can all squabble about the details, the bubble, not all of that I agree with, but it’s neither here nor there. Like I said, it’s pretty much impossible to come up with a perfect scenario right now, but I’m glad we’re all on the same page and playoff hockey’s on its way.”

Tuch happy to be healthy

The Golden Knights forward was limited to 42 games this season due to various injuries. Three different times he was sidelined with a variety of lower- and upper-body injuries. Coming off a 20-goal, 52-point 2018-19 season, the forward could only muster 17 points while missing 29 games.

Tuch used the break to recover and really get back into game shape. He said he lost 10 lbs. and feels 100% healthy for the first time in a long time.

“It’s definitely a fresh start,” Tuch said. “Obviously, I found myself with a little bit of the injury bug this year. Obviously, in and out of the lineup. I think I missed 30 games or so. It’s something I just have to leave in the past.”

Now Tuch can focus on hockey without having to overcome another injury obstacle.

“Just going forward I’m just worried about playoffs,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what happened before or how many injuries I had, how many games I played or who I played with or anything like that. I’m just worried about winning now.”

Carboard cut-out fans or player faces on the glass?

Hamilton sits out

Dougie Hamilton left Hurricanes’ practice early on Wednesday and sat out Thursday’s skate. The defenseman broke his left fibula in mid-January and missed the rest of the regular season.

Rod Brind’Amour did not elaborate on why Hamilton missed practice.

“He was certainly missed when he was out a large portion of the year,” he said. “He’s a huge part of the offense of our team. We’re hoping that this isn’t something that’s long-term.”

Torts back in form

It’s not been a happy week for John Tortorella. He wasn’t pleased with the Blue Jackets’ Monday practice and declined to speak to the media Wednesday.

What did Thursday bring? Classic Torts. He stopped practice early into the team’s first drill and, according to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, “brought everybody together, let loose [with] an expletive-filled rant and started practice over again.”

He’s in midseason form!

Afterward, Tortorella said a few “key” players haven’t performed up to standards, but Thursday was a better day.

“I thought we practiced better today,” Tortorella said. “I think we’ve just got to be really careful not to fall into the trap of thinking we can wade ourselves into this. Each day is an important day. This isn’t getting ready for regular season and then trying to find your game in 15 games. This is a sprint. I think some guys have been dead on right from the start; other guys, not so much. … We need to be ready to go.”

Quinn leaving goalie decision until late

While Igor Shesterkin has manned his own net the last few days, David Quinn isn’t ready to make his decision on who will start Game 1. The head coach said he won’t name his starter until the day of or day before their series against Carolina begins. Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev have been splitting a net between themselves this week, but things could change.

“This really is and will continue to be an open evaluation,” Quinn said. “There’s a lot of things that go into how we’re doing this. We’ve got eight more days, nine more days until we play for real, and those eight or nine days are going to matter.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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