With the majority of games over the next few days already postponed, the NHL and NHLPA announced late Monday the mutual agreement to begin the holiday break early, following Tuesday’s games.
What does it mean, exactly?
First & foremost, there was only one game that went off as scheduled on Monday, with the Minnesota Wild and Dallas facing off. Four other games were postponed: the Buffalo Sabres vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (CBJ had 3 players in protocol, while Vinnie Hinostroza entered protocol Monday); Avalanche vs. Red Wings (COVID issues w/ Colorado); Canadiens vs. Islanders and Ducks vs. Oilers (no cross-border games.)
As it stands, there are two games on the schedule for Tuesday night, which are expected to be played: Capitals vs. Flyers and Lightning vs. Golden Knights. The league obviously wants to try and squeeze these games in if it’s at all semi-practical to do so. Eight other games scheduled for Tuesday are postponed already.
Following those games, the league will begin its holiday break. No practices, no travel, no testing. (Players have been reporting for daily testing, even on off days.)
Players will return on December 26, and will need a negative test result to enter team facilities that day. Teams won’t be allowed to practice until 2 p.m. local time.
This postpones an additional five games which were scheduled for Thursday.
Of course, for the Sabres, this is a bit of a moot point. Their games on Wednesday and Thursday were already taken off the schedule - but now, they can’t practice and won't need to report for testing. If nothing else, it gives them some extended time with their families around the holidays.
(On a side note: it’s not official yet, but very much expected that NHL players will not be going to Beijing for the Olympics at this point - and that the league will use that time to make up some of these games instead.)
The NHL is currently scheduled to return to business as usual on Monday, December 27. The Sabres will host the Islanders, with 13 other games also on tap. Of course, a week is a long time, and a lot can happen in a week. Then again, with no testing for a few days, things will very much remain in flux until at least next Sunday when players report back.
With all that said, if you must have NHL hockey, enjoy Tuesday night’s games. Elsewhere, the American Hockey League is battling on - a few teams are fighting COVID issues - with the Rochester Americans hosting the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins on Wednesday before they take off for the holiday.