NHL postpones Canucks, Senators games due to capacity limits

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Vancouver Canucks left wing Tanner Pearson, left, is greeted by teammates after he scored an empty-net goal during the third period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Seattle. The Canucks won 5-2. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Bo Horvat and the Vancouver Canucks just want to get back to playing hockey.

The Canucks had another game pushed back Friday when the NHL announced it was postponing Saturday’s matchup with the Ottawa Senators due to ongoing attendance restrictions. The league also postponed a Senators-Jets game originally set for Jan. 15.

“We were obviously looking forward to playing and with the game getting canceled and us being off for a long time, we want to play hockey,” said Horvat, Vancouver’s captain. “We feel like we have a pretty good thing going right now and it just keeps getting delayed, which is frustrating. But we can’t let this discourage us. We’ve just got to keep practicing, keep our legs under us and get ready for (next week’s) road trip.”

Current health orders in British Columbia limit attendance at indoor sports events to 50% capacity. The NHL says the games will be rescheduled for later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted.

Toronto placed star forward Mitch Marner and fellow winger Pierre Engvall into the protocols Friday. Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said both players were experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive as their teammates prepared to open a four-game trip Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.

“It’s just the reality of the situation,” Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly said. “Everybody’s going through it. We’ve just got to keep focused on the guys we have available. Next man up and get out there and work.”

The Montreal Canadiens added forward Alex Belzile and defenseman Kale Clague to the protocols. The Canadiens have 24 players, assistant coach Trevor Letowski and goaltending coach Eric Raymond on the protocols list. On Thursday, Montreal extended its pause on team activities, saying the team and its American Hockey League affiliate, the Laval Rocket, wound not return to the ice until practice resumes Sunday.

Edmonton placed forward Kailer Yamamoto in the protocols after the forward tested positive on a rapid test. Coach Dave Tippett said the team is awaiting further results to confirm the test. Oilers star Connor McDavid, defenseman Tyson Barrie and forward Derek Ryan also are in the protocols.

The Canucks and Senators haven’t played since Jan. 1, and Vancouver hasn’t hosted a game since a 4-3 victory over Columbus on Dec. 14.

“It’s not ideal but I guess it’s the way things are going right now,” Vancouver forward Tanner Pearson said.

The Canucks have had seven games postponed since the middle of December. They won’t play again until Tuesday when they kick off a five-game road trip against the Florida Panthers.

After experiencing an outbreak that saw 21 players and four coaches test positive for coronavirus last season, Vancouver has seen several players enter the league’s COVID-19 protocol in recent weeks. The team added right wing Alex Chiasson to the list Friday after he was held out of practice Thursday because of a positive test result.

“Just when you think things are getting back to normal, things like this happen. It is frustrating,” Horvat said.

The Senators, meanwhile, remain in Ottawa during what should have been a five-game western trip.

“To be blatantly honest, it’s like August when you’re waiting for the action to come and you push hard and you’re excited and then you realize you’re still three or four days away from camp opening,” coach D.J. Smith said. “It’s been really strange. But all you can do is get ready for the next game.”

Ottawa has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that saw nine players and an assistant coach placed in the league’s protocol, and forced Thursday’s game against the Kraken in Seattle to be pushed back indefinitely.

Defensemen Thomas Chabot and Dillon Heatherington, forwards Zach Sanford and Chris Tierney and assistant coach Bob Jones were all removed from protocol Friday.

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