NHL officials acknowledge long road to successful resumption

NHL officials acknowledged Friday there is a long way to go before celebrating hockey’s return during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teams must submit rosters and full 52-person traveling parties Friday and travel to the hub cities of Toronto or Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday. There are 12 exhibitions games before the real playoffs start on Aug. 1.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said getting to those quarantined bubbles and resuming play are just two more steps in the process with the hope of awarding the Stanley Cup in late September or early October.

”We still have a way to go to feel any sort of gratification,” Bettman said. ”If there’s any point I’m going to feel substantial emotion, it’ll be a sense of relief when I get to present the Stanley Cup.”

Progress is being made. The league reported only two positive coronavirus test results during the first week of training camps.

NHL chief medical officer Dr. Winne Meeuwisse expects players and staff to test positive in the hub cities and said there is a plan to deal with that. Everyone will be tested daily with the goal of results being available within 24 hours, and the league has insisted that won’t interfere with public resources.

”The quicker turnaround time and the availability on testing is not subtracting from the publicly available testing,” Meeuwisse said. ”We did not want to embark on a strategy that was going to take away protective equipment or testing from vulnerable populations and health care workers.”

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league had confidence in the safety of its bubbles, which will include roughly 200 security guards and fencing to keep those inside separated from the general public. But he’s also not ready to take a victory lap.

”I will say my level of confidence has increased along the way,” Daly said. ”I think I’m comfortable with the protocols and procedures we have in place. And more importantly, I’m comfortable with how all the players seem to have embraced them and taken them seriously and are adhering to them.”

NHL senior vice president of events and entertainment Steve Mayer said tributes to front-line workers and elements of social justice issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement, would be part of opening ceremonies in each city.

Mayer believes individual player demonstrations may happen organically; members of the Maple Leafs have worn Black Lives Matter shirts at their practice facility.

”We’ll see how our players react naturally to what we will present opening night, but there will be some moments within the opening night ceremony that will touch on Black Lives Matter and social justice,” Mayer said. ”More to come on that, but it is something that of course we’re talking about incorporating.”

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.