Red Wings, NHL preparing for different type of season with COVID
Detroit — The NHL regular season will begin this week, and already there are ominous signs in this pandemic .
COVID has disrupted training camps in Dallas, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Colorado, with the Dallas Stars, in particular, already skeptical about starting the regular season.
The Red Wings, and the 30 other teams, are under intense protocols to keep safe and healthy. Everything possible is being done to keep the virus away.
But you get the sense it’s still going to be a challenging NHL season in this current situation.
“We’re going to do the best we can, be as safe as we can while we’re here and when we’re at home,” forward Luke Glendening said. “It’s part of the reality of what we’re living in.”
Players are distancing in the locker room and masks are commonly worn when not on the ice. But the challenge for every team might be increased when teams begin going on the road, as schedules begin to be unhinged.
“We’re going to be confined to our hotel on the road,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “There won’t be much outside contact. From what I’ve heard, all meals will be at the hotel. You can go for a walk with a mask, but that’s about it. That’s OK.
“We’re willing to do that because we want to play. We’re trying to be safe as possible. It’s a concern as we get traveling and there’s more contact outside of what we usually have at LCA. Our guys are really committed to wearing a mask and doing all the right things.”
Forward Anthony Mantha is being careful about whom he is running into on an everyday basis.
“I’m trying to stay away from anyone that could have been in contact,” Mantha said. “If it’s at their work or whatever, obviously if it gets into the (locker) room, it spreads quick.
“It’s the life we live in right now and we’re going to live with it this season. It’s going be hard and there’s going to be a lot of sacrifice from players and staff.”
The NHL has cushioned time at the end of the season in case games are missed and be worked into those open dates of the schedule.
But even before that, teams were preparing for lineups and rosters to be changed on sudden notice, as virus concerns increase.
“These are different teams and it’s just the reality of it,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “When I’ve taken (tournament) teams to Europe I’ve used the phrase ‘you got to roll with the punches.’ That’s how it is going to have to be this year.
“There might be times where the schedule changes, might be times when guys were supposed to be in the lineup all of a sudden aren’t in, the day you’re playing a game.
“We’ll have to be ready to handle whatever comes our way.”
Goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss have both talked about the good relationship they are forming in training camp.
Goaltending is a unique position where support is always vital between the two athletes, though each one is trying to play well enough to earn more playing time.
Blashill sees both goaltenders committed to a team-first attitude.
“One of the characteristics that I've always looked for, and I know that (general manager) Steve (Yzerman) has looked for, is guys that are selfless,” Blashill said. “Guys that care about winning equal to that of their own personal success. That’s what the best goalie tandems ultimately are. It will not be one individual that’s going to push us to winning more games. It’s going to have to be as a group.
“As goalie partners, when you’re really good people and you care about the team equal to that or yourself, you can really end up building a good friendship with your goalie partner.”
Forwards Bobby Ryan, Evgeny Svechnikov and Darren Helm remained unfit to play and were not listed on Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage lineups.
Blashill said the players who have been out longer, Svechnikov and Helm, aren't likely to return by Thursday's season opener.