The NHL season has run for 16 days. Eleven games now postponed. The last three have come from the Vegas Golden Knights.
The league postponed Vegas’ upcoming two-game series against the San Jose Sharks, set to start Monday in Glendale, after contact tracing with four Golden Knights members.
Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is the only player to be placed on the league’s COVID protocol list. Three Vegas coaches are also in quaratine, via the NHL’s policy.
This comes one day after Vegas’ game against the St. Louis Blues was postponed due to contact tracing. No Blues players were added to the COVID absence list as of 2 p.m. Friday; St. Louis is on schedule to face the Anaheim Ducks this weekend.
But the Golden Knights won’t be so fortunate. The next time Vegas takes the ice, as of now, is Feb. 5 at T-Mobile Arena against the Los Angeles Kings. That will kickstart a five-game homestand until the “road” game at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 20 against the Colorado Avalanche.
Henderson Silver Knights coach Manny Viveiros, with assistants Joel Ward and Jamie Heward, served as assistant coaches for general manager Kelly McCrimmon on Tuesday. Due to NHL protocols, Viveiros and his staff could not be on the ice for Henderson’s practices, nor have interactions with players.
As a result, recently-retired Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland ran Silver Knights practice Thursday and is behind the bench for Henderson’s preseason opener Friday against the San Jose Barracuda.
A wild situation, indeed.
And given the Silver Knights’ inaugural season starts Feb. 6 against the Ontario Reign it would be in the best interest for Pete DeBoer and his staff to be available.
How do we get there? According to the NHL’s COVID protocol guidelines, in Pietrangelo’s case, he would need to return two negative tests or go without symptoms for 10 consecutive days. Based on no language in the restart protocol pertaining to coaches, I’d expect those to be the same requirements.
If it were just Pietrangelo, the Golden Knights could simply call a player from their taxi squad to take his place. But the Golden Knights, literally, cannot field a coaching staff right now. One coach has tested positive, per McCrimmon. The godsend McCrimmon eluded to Tuesday no longer exists.
For as revered as Engelland is in the organization, I don’t think either Knights organization wants him this involved behind the bench so quickly.
The Golden Knights, along with the other 30 teams, can not say how players are doing through COVID. We honestly won’t know until 2 p.m. every day.
As for Vegas’ roster, that too is a giant puzzle. Pietrangelo’s defense partner, Brayden McNabb, went on long-term injured reserve Wednesday. If Pietrangelo isn’t ready to go by Friday, per se, the Golden Knights will have to call up at least one more defenseman (Nick Holden was called up Wednesday). What that means cap wise is another mystery.
It’s going to be a day-by-day situation before we know when the Golden Knights return to hockey. It might be aggravating to most, but as soon as we can, we’ll update information as we get it.