“The decision to extend the period prior to the (Canucks’) resumption of play was made to provide club staff and players with additional time for recovery and preparation following its recent COVID outbreak,” the league said in a statement.
A COVID-19 outbreak ravaged the team over the last two weeks with 25 people — 21 players and four members of the coaching staff — testing positive for the virus.
The Canucks practiced for the first time in two weeks on Thursday, though the skate was closed to media last minute.
“Above all else, the health and safety of players, staff and families remains the priority,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said of the extended delay.
“As of today, certain players have passed evaluation, however many are not yet cleared and extra recovery time is required. Our medical staff are confident the recovery process for those players will be aided by an additional couple of days.”
After the Oilers practice Thursday morning, captain Connor McDavid described the wait to find out whether they’d play as “strange times,” but said everyone’s health and safety is the number one priority.
“Almost all of them had (COVID-19),” he said. “So it’s obviously a very dangerous situation and we’re hopeful that they can come out of it and everyone can be healthy and fit to play at some point.”
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But Canucks forward J.T. Miller had some choice words on Wednesday, saying going ahead with the games was going to be challenging and “not very safe” for the players.
“We’re going to need more time than this to come back and play hockey. Even the guys that didn’t get it, we’re not ready to play,” he said. “It’s a decision that was made and as of now I guess we’re going to have to be ready to play.
“It seems like a very high hurdle to try and jump over to jam 19 NHL games against good hockey teams in a month.”
McDavid called the situation the Canucks are in “a difficult spot.”
“They’re going to need to get in and play games eventually,” he said. “You obviously feel for them in this situation, you hope that they’re feeling well, their families are feeling well and no one’s affected by it long term.”
The league’s statement said a revised schedule for North Division is expected Friday.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in where you’re going but, for us, it’s just, ‘Tell us where we should be and we’re going to show up and play,’” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said Thursday.
It’s not the first time this season the Oilers’ schedule has been affected by the opposing team having players in COVID protocol. Last month, three games were rescheduled against the Montreal Canadiens.
One of those games was played last month and the other two will be made up in May.
– With files from the Canadian Press