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With 8 Players In COVID Protocol, NHL Delays Return To Ice For Stars

The Stars are the latest team in the league to have a COVID outbreak on their team impact the schedule.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There was a small window of time in mid-December where it seemed like the Dallas Stars might have avoided the current COVID-19 outbreak slicing through the league. They hadn’t had any games postponed due to their own outbreak, and those that were eventually postponed were due to struggles of the the league as a whole with the virus.

The home game on December 22nd against the Winnipeg Jets was postponed due to concerns about Canadian teams traveling between countries as the government contemplated enhanced travel measures and restrictions to shutdown a surge in cases north of the border. The road game on the 23rd was a postponement as a result of the league agreeing to start the Christmas break early, ditto the home game scheduled for the 27th versus the Nashville Predators as the break was extended a day.

But you see, the Stars played the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday the 18th, who had played Nashville the night before and were missing something north of eight players in protocol when they faced off against one another. That’s not a hard line to follow as the Stars announced on Friday (Christmas Eve) that they had placed defenseman Jani Hakanpaa into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

When the league returned from its extended Christmas break on Sunday, the Stars added five more players to that list: defenseman Miro Heiskanen and forwards Radek Faksa, Joel Kiviranta, Michael Raffl, and Jason Robertson. On Monday, the list grew to eight players, with forward Roope Hintz and defenseman Esa Lindell joining their teammates in protocol.

Maybe the enhanced measures the league announced with temporary taxi squads through the All-Star break in early February and salary cap relief (so long as the players recalled have a cap hit of under $1 million) could come in handy now.

Except the Dallas Stars aren’t the only ones with an outbreak to contend with. As Matt DeFranks from Dallas Morning News reported, the AHL Texas Stars have 13 players in protocol, 11 of which are on two-way contracts and would be the likely candidates for recall to help spell the NHL squad with bodies to insert into the lineup. Among those, seven are forwards and four are defenseman.

(Side note: please put the goaltenders into a bubble boy fit right now.)

As a result, the Stars’ next two games have been postponed: Wednesday, December 29th at the Colorado Avalanche and Friday, December 31st versus Colorado. That puts them off the ice for at least 13 days, with their next scheduled game now set for Sunday, January 2nd on the road against the Arizona Coyotes.

With the NHL and NHLPA signaling that players are not going to the Winter Olympics, the league is looking to readjust the February schedule to fulfill the full 82-game schedule before the playoffs. The Stars now have five games, all of which are against divisional opponents no less, that will need to be slotted into a reconfigured schedule.