COVID game calls: Player quantity, not quality

The Carolina Hurricanes said the NHL's postponement of two games this week was not based on the prestige of the players who are currently on the league's COVID related absence list.

The Hurricanes have five players on that list, including key forwards Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen and their top defenseman Jaccob Slavin. Forwards Warren Foegele and Jordan Martinook are also unavailable.

"I guarantee this wasn't about the quality of the players," said Carolina general manager Don Waddell. "The NHL is not going to care about who's in or who's out from our end. The concern is when you have that many players at one time that are either positive or in the contract tracing, the fear is that it can come through the locker room. That's why the NHL made the decision with our doctors and the league doctors to just take these days and shut it down."

An NHLPA source told ESPN this week that the decisions to postpone games are not tied to the quality of player that are unavailable, but rather on the direction of medical experts regarding overall risk to teams.

The Hurricanes have four players isolating in a Nashville hotel.

"We've got guys that are in their hotel room in Nashville and can't even move. It's brutal. I feel for those guys," said coach Rod Brind'Amour.

Waddell expects the Hurricanes will be able to reopen their training facilities by the weekend, although the groups using them could be limited in size. Carolina's games against Nashville this past Tuesday and against the Florida Panthers on Thursday and Saturday were postponed. Their next game is Tuesday at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brind'Amour expressed concern about how this interruption in the season will impact the team.

"That's the great unknown. I don't think anybody really knows," he said. "It's not ideal. We all understood there was a chance something like this was going to happen. It's how you deal with it. Are we going to be in tip-top shape coming out of this? Probably not. We've going to have to figure different ways to make up for the time we lost."

As far as rescheduling the missed games, Waddell said "we definitely have places where we can put them in" their schedule. But with the Central Division's scheduling already getting complicated with the Hurricanes and Dallas Stars getting multiple games postponed due to COVID-19, he said the possibility to jamming five games into seven days is a real one.

But Waddell said the NHL has drawn a line at playing three games in three nights, at least for the moment.

"The conversations I had with the league today is that they want to avoid three games in three nights. It's the league's strong opinion, and I think most teams would agree, that three games in three nights puts your players at risk for more injuries," said Waddell. "The league's going to do everything it can to avoid it."

The Hurricanes announced that they've installed COVID-19 rapid testing machines at their arena, originally to test officials and off-ice crew members. Waddell wasn't sure if they would use them for the players as well. "The NHL hasn't said this is something we're going to do," he said.

Brind'Amour said the team was frustrated that they tried to follow protocols and guidelines and still ended up with an outbreak.

"I think they've done the best they can. I think everybody has. You always want to err on the side of caution. We've done all the protocols. I think we did a great job. And it didn't matter: It got into our room," he said.