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Capitals Return To Ice Monday, NHL, NHLPA Reportedly Working on COVID Roster Protection

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Capitals forward Nic Dowd

Following a freeze on the 2021-22 campaign due to COVID-19, the Washington Capitals will return to the ice on Monday for a noon practice.

All the while, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are reportedly working on COVID roster protection, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

With roster protection, the league would allow for optional use of a taxi squad through the All-Star break in early February. Also, teams would get to make emergency call-ups of players making no more than $1 million and be able to add a goalie if there are less than two healthy due to COVID.

Starting Wednesday, the NHL and NHLPA hit pause on the season amid a league-wide spike in COVID cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant, resulting in a number of postponed games. The league also delayed the return-to-play date an extra day to allow for more time to evaluate test results. Teams had the option to practice after 2 p.m. local time on Sunday, with players having to test negative to return. The Capitals’ last three games have been postponed due to COVID-19, including Monday’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators.

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Washington currently has three players on the COVID-19 protocol: Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie. Mike Sgarbossa had also been on that list, but his test turned out to be a false positive. Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Trevor van Riemsdyk, along with goalie coach Scott Murray, also contracted COVID-19. Lars Eller was the first Capitals player to test positive this season. The organization announced it was fully vaccinated at the start of training camp.

“It’s a weird virus and it’s tough to talk about because so many people fare so differently,” Dowd said. “Like our experience compared to people who may have lost family members is tough to talk about. There’s so many different experiences and fortunately, ours was not severe.”

Right now, the NHL is looking to resume the game schedule starting Tuesday. That would mean that the Capitals would return to action on Wednesday to take on the Nashville Predators. Washington is currently in a tie for first in the Metropolitan Division with the Carolina Hurricanes.

As for the other 50-plus postponed games, including the Capitals’ tilts with Philly and New York, the NHL intends to use the Olympic break to make up those missed matchups. In turn, the league will not be sending players to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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