Red Wings place Adam Erne, Jordan Oesterle, support staff member in COVID-19 protocol

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings' season has been paused, but the list of their players in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol continues to grow.

The Wings announced Tuesday they have placed forward Adam Erne, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and one member of the support staff in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol.

Detroit left wing Adam Erne was placed in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol on Monday.

Those three join several players and coaches who went on the list last week, including head coach Jeff Blashill and assistant coach Alex Tanguay; forwards Sam Gagner, Pius Suter, Joe Veleno, Robby Fabbri, Michael Rasmussen, Carter Rowney, Givani Smith and Filip Zadina; goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, and assistant video coach Jeff Weintraub.

Forward Tyler Bertuzzi (the only unvaccinated player in the league) and defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Marc Staal have returned from protocol in the last week.

The Wings, and the rest of the league, have begun their holiday break ahead of schedule.

The NHL announced late Monday night it'll begin the holiday break early, with no games from Wednesday through Saturday. Teams will return Sunday to practice, with hopes of resuming the schedule Monday.

Teams previously were scheduled off from games, practices and travel from Friday through Sunday, the traditional three-day holiday break, with games resuming Monday.

But thanks to a flurry of postponements this week, and 10 teams (including the Wings) having their seasons paused due to COVID outbreaks, the NHL moved up its break.

The Red Wings, who will have had two games postponed (last Monday's game against Colorado, and Thursday in Minnesota), are scheduled to play next Monday in New York against the Rangers, but there's no guarantee that game will take place.

The Wings, like many other teams, will still have players under quarantine, which will make fielding a competitive roster difficult.

The NHL said no individual in a team's traveling party will enter their team facility until they've had a negative test result.

Practices will not be scheduled Sunday until after 2 p.m. (the Wings have yet to solidify details on when they'll practice).

There were two games — on the NHL schedule Tuesday — Washington in Philadelphia and Tampa in Vegas — and the game in Philadelphia was cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among Washington players.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 131 players were reportedly in protocol, or 18% of NHL rosters. A staggering 24 teams had at least one player in protocol. Five head coaches were in protocol.

With Tuesday's postponement of the Capitals-Flyers game, a 50 games have been postponed, including 45 in just the last eight days.

A key problem facing the Wings, and the rest of the NHL, is how and when to make up those games.

The NHL and NHL players association has decided to not have players participate in the Winter Olympics in China. That opens up a three-week window in February.

But there are potential potholes with that idea, as well.

Many arenas in North America, anticipating the NHL would be shut down for the Olympics, have already booked a steady stream of concerts, ice shows and various events, leaving a smaller window of potential open dates with which to fill postponed NHL games.

Shoehorning games for the second half of this season will be difficult, given the busy schedules most teams have already. The Wings, for instance, have 13 games in March and 15 in April, which makes finding open dates for the current postponements with the Avalanche and Wild extremely difficult.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan