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Cross-border NHL Covid is a Gong Show for Canucks

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Vancouver Canucks practice
Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau gives practice instructions on Saturday at Rogers Arena.

Alrightee then, let’s take a stab at this. As in, which Vancouver Canucks may be able to play NHL hockey and when.

First of all, for practice on Saturday, the D-corps, minus Travis Hamonic with his lower body injury, was relatively intact, although Kyle Burroughs was forced to practice as a forward.

Bo Horvat, Conor Garland, Tanner Pearson

JT Miller, Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Höglander

Tyler Motte, Juho Lammikko, Matthew Highmore

Kyle Burroughs, Justin Bailey, Sheldon Rempal

Bailey had an unassisted goal and an assist Friday night in the Abbotsford Canucks 4-3 overtime loss to the Bakersfield Condors. Rempal played as well and had five shots on goal.

Bailey and Rempal were added to the NHL Canucks taxi squad on Saturday along with defenceman Ashton Sautner, who practiced, and goaltender Spencer Martin, who didn’t. The latter two also played in the AHL game in Abbotsford last night. All four will travel with the big Canucks.

The first question revolves around the availability of Canucks sniper Brock Boeser, who first went on Covid protocol with forward Phil Di Giuseppe while in the US at the start of the three game road trip on December 29th. Both players returned to Canada and now, based on citizenship, their status differs with the upcoming games happening in the United States. Boeser has already headed south.

“Brock, because he’s an American citizen, got permission to go back to the US,” said Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “He’s completed his protocol there and hopefully he will join us in Florida. Di Giuseppe is Canadian so he’s gotta finish his protocol here before he can go to the US.”

It looks like forward Justin Dowling will be staying up North as well.

Jason Dickinson, although Canadian, stayed in the US after being placed in Covid protocol six days ago. That worked out well apparently, because the regulations aren’t as stringent there as they are north of the border. In fact, based on NHL guidelines, if symptom-free with a negative test, Dickinson was eligible to play after five days. He should be able to join the team at the start of the trip.

Elias Pettersson might be a sticky one. He could travel with the team if he’s symptom free and if he tested negative on Saturday, according to Boudreau.

The Vancouver Canucks must now concern themselves with being ready to play Tuesday having not played since New Years Day. Scrimmaging against teammates is one thing, playing hostile opponents is another.

“It would be a challenge for any team when they’ve taken ten days off and have to come back and the first team you’re playing is arguably one of the top five teams in the league,” Boudreau said. “I’m just a big believer that you embrace these things, and let’s see what we’ve got, and hopefully you can come out on top for one night.”

Boudreau doesn’t want to look too far ahead, but obviously knows it won’t get any easier with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, and Nashville Predators waiting in the wings. If only the Canucks knew for sure which players were available.

“I guess one good thing with the guys that got sick, they’re feeling good and that’s all we care about,” Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said after practice. “We can’t really do anything about the protocols and stuff like that and we’ve said in the group that we’re going to stay positive, whatever happens, happens, and we just deal with it when that day comes.

“It’s gonna be a good test for our group,” he added.

Meanwhile, the roster shuffling leaves the Abbotsford team with just 12 skaters and a goalie ahead of their next game Sunday at home against Bakersfield. Abby GM Ryan Johnson expects he’ll be adding at least three more ECHL-level players to the three he already added for Friday night.

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