It really was only a matter of time until the Tampa Bay Lightning would have to deal with the same situation that almost every other team in the league has had to deal with over the past month or so - losing players to COVID protocols. On Sunday night, the team announced that four players and assistant coach Rob Zettler entered COVID protocol prior to the team coming back together for their first post-Christmas practice.
Both goaltenders (Brian Elliott and Andrei Vasilevskiy), Mikhail Sergachev, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare were held out of the practice which was led by assistant coach Derek Lalonde and featured coach Frantz Jean in net. According to the Tampa Bay Times article all of the players were asymptomatic or showing mild signs.
So what does this mean for the players who initially tested positive? Per the NHL guidelines for vaccinated players, they will be isolated while they wait for a second test to come back. If that second test comes back positive, they are considered to be a confirmed positive case of COVID, If it comes back negative, they will be tested again (24 hours later) and a second negative test will allow them to exit isolation.
If they remain asymptomatic (which the Lightning players reportedly are) it will basically take two negative tests (taken 24 hours apart) to release them from the protocols. Having the initial tests on Sunday would allow them to play again on Tuesday if the follow-up tests come back as negative. Of course, that assumes the Lightning will play the Montreal Canadiens as scheduled.
With both goaltenders in protocol, that does put them in a bit of a bind. Some of the new roster rules will allow them to call up a netminder on an emergency basis, but the organization is a bit bare in that department. As long as he isn’t in protocol, Max Lagace would likely get the call if Vasilevskiy and Elliott aren’t able to go on Tuesday. The 28-year-old has 18 games of NHL experience, mostly with the Vegas Golden Knights. His last appearance was with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2020-21 in which he posted a 29-save shutout against the Buffalo Sabres on May 8th. So that’s a good sign.
Look, I get it. Having players that aren’t symptomatic held out of games isn’t what any of us want to see. It’s the league policy, though, and the Lightning have to deal with it. What any of us think about how the process is being handled doesn’t matter, so it’s not worth complaining about. The Bolts will work their way through this just like they’ve worked through every other roadblock that has been thrown in front of them this season.
Let’s just hope that the players and Rob Zettler remain asymptomatic and are back on the ice soon.
Lightning / NHL News
Taxi squads are back (at least until the All-Star Break), emergency players can be called up (as long as they make less than $1 million), and teams can add a goaltender if the two regulars aren’t available. The holiday break was extended through Monday with the hopes that the season will be back underway on Tuesday.
The Lightning weren’t the only team to have players come back and test positive. Six other teams announced that they had players added to COVID protocols.
While the Lightning don’t currently have any prospects playing, there are some players that are eligible for the 2022 draft that Tampa Bay may be interested in selecting. Here are the results from Day One:
Finland 3, Germany 1
Sweden 6, Russia 3
Canada 6, Czechia 3
United States 3, Slovakia 2
12:00 PM MST / 2:00 PM EST: Austria vs. Finland
2:30 PM MST / 4:30 PM EST: Russia vs. Switzerland
5:00 PM MST / 7:00 PM EST: Germany vs. Czechia
7:30 PM MST / 9:30 PM EST: Sweden vs. Slovakia