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Montreal Canadiens player tests positive for COVID-19 variant, GM says

Montreal Canadiens' Jesperi Kotkaniemi, centre, celebrates his goal past Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby with teammates Artturi Lehkonen, left, and Joel Armia during first period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Thursday, November 1, 2018. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin confirmed Thursday that one player has tested positive for a strain of COVID-19 linked to a variant.

The news comes after Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol on Monday, resulting in the last-minute cancellation of the Habs game against the Edmonton Oilers in Montreal.

“There was one player that his test came back positive and there were close contacts, so the league didn’t want to take any chances,” Bergevin said, explaining why a second player was placed on protocol.

Read more: Oilers, Canadiens Wednesday and Friday games postponed after players enter COVID-19 protocol

In all, four games were postponed including three pitting the Habs against the Oilers on home ice and one against the Ottawa Senators scheduled for this Sunday.

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Bergevin expects the team will be getting back to business as early as Monday.

“Luckily it hasn’t spread,” he said. “We’re keeping the same pace and by Monday afternoon, we should be OK to come back.”

Meanwhile, coaching staff and physical trainers have been keeping players active by organizing virtual sessions pending the reopening of the Habs’ training facility in Brossard.

Click to play video: 'Oilers, Canadiens game postponed after 2 players enter COVID-19 protocol' Oilers, Canadiens game postponed after 2 players enter COVID-19 protocol
Oilers, Canadiens game postponed after 2 players enter COVID-19 protocol – Mar 22, 2021

With a shortened season, making up for lost games won’t be easy in an already tight-packed schedule.

“The league, the players association made a decision to get those 56 games with 116 days with the possibility of missing games because of that reason,” Bergevin said.

“So it’s something we’ll have to deal with, it’s not ideal but we’ll make the best of it.”

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Read more: Call of the Wilde: Overtime carnage again as Canadiens fall to the Canucks 3-2

Bergevin expects one or two of the postponed games will be rescheduled after May 8, while the others will be inserted within the current calendar. He expects other games might need to be shuffled to accommodate the new schedule.

The postponements were the first in the Canadian-based North Division this season. There have been 41 games postponed due to protocol in the NHL this season.

The league has yet to announce make-up dates for games that were postponed this week.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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