BY JOHN WAWROW, AP Hockey writer
The NHL is expanding its safety protocols to include game day quick tests for players to help contain potential COVID-19 outbreaks, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Rapid tests provide results within half an hour and complement the existing daily PCR tests, similar to the protocols introduced by the NBA this season. PCR tests are considered more accurate, but the results are processed by 12 to 24 hours.
The move was confirmed by the person speaking on condition of anonymity as the league had not yet released their updated protocol.
The decision comes two days after Vegas Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek tested positive but was only quarantined after the first two periods of a 5-4 win over Anaheim. And it comes on the same day that the league delayed the start of Edmonton’s Montreal game by an hour to have additional time to conduct contact tracing and test results after Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi responded to the COVID-19 List was set.
The Oilers were the first of seven Canadian teams in the league to encounter a virus-related disorder in just under a month of the season. Otherwise, the 35 postponed games have set up all participating teams in the three US divisions for this season.
Golden Knights forward Mark Stone welcomed the NHL’s decision to conduct further testing.
“I think now having the rapid tests will help,” said Stone. “We need to know more about what we ultimately want before the games.”
The NHL has currently cut the season off of four teams: the Buffalo Sabers, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, and Philadelphia Flyers, though others have also been idle.
The wilderness was released for practice on Friday after a 10-day break. The Wild has 12 players left on the COVID list after striker Marcus Foligno was removed on Thursday.
At least 11 of the 31 NHL teams are affected, 54 players are on the COVID-19 list, led by the Devils at 18. The Calgary Flames are listed as TBA for unclear reasons.
New Jersey strikers Kyle Palmieri and Pavel Zacha were both added to the list the day after their removal, while Devils rookie Yegor Sharangovich is no longer listed.
The Flyers now have five players on the list after the addition of Jakub Voracek and Morgan Frost. Also added to the COVID-19 list were Florida’s Anthony Duclair and New York Rangers Filip Chytil.
The NHL also updated its security logs last week. Teams removed panes of glass from behind each bench for better airflow and kept players at least three feet apart in their locker rooms. Teams have also been instructed not to appear in the arenas until an hour 45 minutes before the face-off, unless the players require pre-match treatment or preparation.
Stone said the first month of the season was a learning experience given the disruption caused by COVID-19.
“I think you’re a little naive to think we’d go through the whole season without a guy testing positive,” said Stone. “I think everyone learns as we go.”
AP sports journalist Dave Campbell contributed to this report.
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