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.

Scroll Down For:

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

    buffalo sabres
    Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

    washington capitals
    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

    pittsburgh penguins
    Jeanine Leech/Getty Images
    0 Comments

    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

    Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

    The team announced the news on social media.

    MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

    The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.