NHL to bring back taxi squads in effort to keep season going

The NHL is emerging from an extended holiday break with taxi squads and other roster revisions, a move made to guard against more disruptions to the season amid more players and coaches going into COVID-19 protocol Sunday.

Each team will be allowed to have a taxi squad of up to six players and to make emergency recalls from the minors if COVID-19 absences would cause anyone to play without a full lineup. Taxi squads, which were used during the shortened 2021 season, are set to be in effect until at least the All-Star break in early February.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the new roster rules in an email to The Associated Press, and the NHL announced the changes Sunday night. The league also postponed three additional games — Columbus at Chicago on Tuesday night and Pittsburgh at Toronto, and Boston at Ottawa on Wednesday night.

“Any relief is welcome, believe me,” said Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito, who is eager to see how the flexibility might help. “It’s tough. What if all your goalies get it? What are you going to do? We’ve been through, as a management team, any number of scenarios surrounding the ‘what-ifs’ — or maybe we’re kidding ourselves and we should be thinking about the ‘whens,’ as far as who gets it and when.”

Under the new provisions, any team shy of having 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders available can bring up a player from the American Hockey League without playing a game with fewer than the usual 18 skaters. Emergency recalls also can be made of players with salary-cap hits of up to $1 million, an increase from the previous $850,000 limit.

Players on the taxi squad will count as being in the minors for cap purposes. They can be there for a maximum of 20 days.

The goal of the changes is to keep the NHL season going after 67 games already have been postponed for coronavirus-related reasons. All 14 games initially scheduled for Monday previously were postponed to allow for analyzing of COVID-19 tests taken Sunday by players, coaches and staff upon returning to team facilities.

“It’s my understanding that every game that is scheduled now will be played, unless for whatever reason there is a change,” said New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, whose team is scheduled to play again Wednesday. “Every indication we have (is) we will be playing. We have no indication that we will not be playing.”

The return to team facilities also brought the predictable result of additions to the COVID-19 protocol list across the league.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lighting added goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and assistant coach Rob Zettler to the list. The Islanders added forwards Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Zach Parise, and Oliver Wahlstrom and activated Mathew Barzal.

Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen, forwards Jason Robertson, Joel Kiviranta, Radek Faksa and Michael Raffl, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis, Buffalo Sabres forwards Dylan Cozens and Mark Jankowski and coach Don Granato, Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau and Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle also entered protocol.

The Sabres said Cozens, Jankowski and Granato were asymptomatic. The team canceled a scheduled practice, which was to be Buffalo’s first since Dec. 18.

The NHL began its annual Christmas break a day earlier than anticipated last week amid a rapid increase of positive COVID-19 test results among players. At the time, more than a quarter of the league’s 32 teams were shut down because of outbreaks.

Because of its seven teams based in Canada, the NHL cannot follow the lead of the NFL by not doing blanket testing of fully vaccinated, asymptomatic players. Lamoriello said league officials are doing their best without any control over rules and restrictions set out by the Canadian federal and provincial governments.

“Unless we weren’t playing in Canada and we didn’t have teams in Canada, you could consider that, and certainly it would be (considered),” Lamoriello said of adjusting testing requirements. “But with the guidelines and rules of Canada, it’s impossible to have happen. We wouldn’t be able to have games without the testing that is required to play in Canada.”

A lack of widespread booster availability in Canada could also stunt efforts by the NHL to make an extra dose of a COVID-19 part of being considered fully vaccinated, like the NBA has done.

Several NHL teams returned to practice Sunday, including the Calgary Flames, who last played Dec. 11 and had been shut down because of a virus outbreak that included 20 players and 13 staff ending up in COVID-19 protocol.

Scroll Down For:

    Predators-Avalanche postponed due to water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed because of a water main break that has soaked the downtown arena.

    The NHL said the water main break has “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store.

    The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    A makeup date for the  game will be announced later.

    Also, a decision on whether to postpone the Predators’ home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be made later.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue in Nashville for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

    Carrier, Pietrangelo rally Golden Knights past Canucks 5-4

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Pietrangelo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had two assists as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied past the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night.

    William Carrier scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights (15-4-1), who overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third. Reilly Smith also scored, while Jack Eichel and Alec Martinez each had two assists.

    Logan Thompson made 25 saves for Vegas, which had a go-ahead goal wiped out in the third but still kept pushing.

    “I don’t think that’s really how we drew it up,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of emotions. Obviously we score and then it gets taken back. But I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to win on the road and you’ve got to give credit to our group – we were resilient no matter what happened.”

    Vancouver (6-10-3) got a goal and an assist from Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn and Elias Pettersson also scored, and Quinn Hughes had two assists.

    Thatcher Demko stopped 33 shots for the Canucks, who gave up a multi-goal lead in a loss for the seventh time this season.

    “Inexcusable,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

    “That’s nothing to do with systems or what the coaches are telling us. That comes down to battle and compete and, we’re getting outmuscled and outbattled in front of the net and in the blue paint,” he added. “Everyone just needs to be better in front of (Demko) there and that’s where games are won and lost.”

    Vegas appeared to take the lead midway through the third period, but the goal was disallowed because of a bizarre bounce.

    A clearing attempt by the Canucks hit the lens of a camera sticking through one of the media holes in the glass, knocking a piece of it onto the ice. Play continued at that end and Stone put the puck in the net. But after a video review, the goal was overturned and an official said the whistle should have been blown to stop play.

    About four minutes later, Pietrangelo did give the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage when he collected a puck from Stone and sent a backhand past Demko from the low slot at 14:14.

    Vancouver scored three straight goals early in the third to go up 4-2 before Vegas roared back.

    “We let them score one, kind of changed the momentum quick and then they scored another one. So I don’t know,” Pettersson said. “We just can’t let that happen. It’s been happening way too many times this season.”

    Carrier made it 4-3 with his second of the night at 6:54, sending in a rebound from the top of the crease for his sixth of the season.

    “Once they scored one it was like, `Uh oh, here we go again.’ And we’re back on our heels and they came at us, and then they got three,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    Smith shoveled a puck into the Vancouver net at 8:57 to tie it.

    “We just win some pucks below their goal line and get it to the front of the net and force them to defend an area they haven’t done as good a job as they’d probably like this year there,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We didn’t do a very good job to start a third there, and then it snowballs a little bit. You have a little life and you get a couple more pucks to the net and a second chance.”

    ON A ROLL

    Horvat drew the Canucks even 1:47 into the third with a wrist shot from the hash marks. Vancouver’s captain has 15 goals, second-most in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (16). … Brock Boeser‘s assist on the first goal of the game extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, six assists).

    MARKING MILESTONES

    Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault played his 500th regular-season NHL game. Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old center suited up for Columbus, Tampa Bay and Florida before Vegas selected him in the 2017 expansion draft. … Vancouver defenseman Ethan Bear made his 200th regular-season appearance.

    UP NEXT

    Golden Knights: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.

    Canucks: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Colorado.