Dallas Stars facing COVID issues
Less than one week after most NHL teams began their training camps, the league is suddenly dealing with its first significant coronavirus issue for the upcoming season.
And it could potentially impact the Blackhawks.
Six Dallas Stars players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, forcing the team to close its training facility. The NHL is reviewing the Stars' regular-season schedule with the expectation that it will not begin until at least January 19.
This means Dallas' first three games -- slated for January 14, 15 and 17 -- will be postponed, or perhaps even canceled. The Stars are on the Hawks' schedule eight times this season, with the first two games at Dallas on February 7 and 9.
"Certainly it's a reminder to all of us that we've got to be careful and try to do everything right," said Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton after the team wrapped up practice at Fifth Third Arena on Friday. "So far, we've had great buy-in from the players and staff."
The Hawks took part in the wildly successful Stanley Cup playoffs, which did not produce one positive test as the 24 teams played all of their games in Edmonton and Toronto.
But the regular season will obviously be much different, with teams traveling from city to city to play what everyone hopes is a 56-game slate.
Positive tests are going to happen and it seems unlikely any franchise will be unscathed. The Columbus Blue Jackets also made news Friday when they held a number of players out of practice, "out of an abundance of caution."
It will be interesting to see if any squad goes through what the Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals or Miami Marlins experienced last year. For those who don't remember, the Broncos were forced to play the Saints without a regular quarterback on the roster while the Cardinals and Marlins ended up playing a combined 18 doubleheaders due to previous games being postponed.
The Hawks are doing everything they can to avoid those types of headaches.
"I know my wife and I with the kids, we social distance," said Hawks forward Ryan Carpenter. "The most we do is just walk around the city and take 'em to the park. We're not really around a ton of other people.
"It's way different than it was a year ago. We're doing our best to control what we can and give ourselves a shot. It would be a setback if (a COVID outbreak) were to happen to our team."
The NHL has set up a contingency plan to deal with COVID-19 by allowing teams to expand rosters with a 4-6 person taxi squad. Those players can practice and potentially travel as well. All teams are also required to roster three goalies.
Colliton should probably put in a phone call to Bears coach Matt Nagy, who dealt with myriad coronavirus issues this season. There were canceled practices, postponed practices, toned-down practices, etc., etc.
Nagy constantly praised his players and coaches for their flexibility and positive attitudes despite the trying circumstances. If the Hawks can adopt a similar mentality, it will go a long way toward them having a productive campaign.
Power up: The Hawks spent a significant portion of Friday's practice working on the power play. The top unit consisted of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Andrew Shaw, Dylan Strome and D-man Adam Boqvist. The second group consisted of Brandon Pirri, Dominik Kubalik, Pius Suter, Lucas Wallmark and D-man Duncan Keith.
While Boqvist has played in just 41 NHL games, coach Jeremy Colliton believes the second-year D-man is better suited to quarterback a top unit that hopes to create more movement and mismatches.
"Boqy fits that (style) better," Colliton said. "He's pretty dynamic in those ways. So we're excited about what he can bring."
Still out: Defensemen Brent Seabrook and Nikita Zadorov (both unfit to participate) and center Carl Soderberg (immigration documents) all remain out. Coach Jeremy Colliton did not offer a timeline on when any of them might return.