Raymond, Leddy join long list of Red Wings on COVID protocol list

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings returned to work Sunday, but an extended holiday break didn't help them in the fight against COVID.

The Wings placed forward Lucas Raymond and defenseman Nick Leddy in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol.

Raymond tested positive before Christmas, so his timeline will be different than Leddy's, but seeing Raymond and Leddy join protocol negated some of the good news — forwards Robby Fabbri and Michael Rasmussen were removed from the protocol list.

Red Wings right wing Lucas Raymond, front, wraps around the net for a shot as Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar pursues.

The Wings had 10 skaters and a goalie (Thomas Greiss) on the ice Sunday, the first day returning from the NHL's holiday break, which was extended this season because of rampant COVID spread throughout the league.

"(Sunday) was used to get back on the ice," said coach Jeff Blashill, still on the protocol list himself, Sunday via a Zoom call with media. "Guys haven't skated since (Dec. 18), the guys who played (that night) and it was just used to get back on the ice and start the process of getting our legs back going. 

"That's not going to be an easy thing when you've been out this long, even for those guys who weren't sick."

The list of Wings still in protocol is long.

It includes Blashill and assistant coach Alex Tanguay; forwards Adam Erne, Sam Gagner, Pius Suter, Joe Veleno, Carter Rowney, Givani Smith and Filip Zadina; defenseman Jordan Oesterle, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, and assistant video coach Jeff Weintraub.

Blashill expects several of those players to exit protocol Monday. But the Wings will continue to be shorthanded, and would be for Wednesday's tentative game on Long Island against the New York Islanders unless they recall players from Grand Rapids.

"I anticipate having seven forwards, five defensemen and one goalie available to skate Monday," Blashill said. "We'll take a step closer, I guess, to a real practice than what we had Sunday. But you're limited with the numbers. We'll be able to do a tiny bit more from a team perspective but it's still going to be about guys getting their legs back and feeling the puck and getting those things back."

With so much time off, it would be ideal to have a training camp feel to these practices. But the depleted roster makes that impossible.

"I'd love to, but the problem is you can't do it to the degree you'd like because the numbers you have available," Blashill said. "If we had a full team today, the practice would have looked a lot different, or (Monday) the practice would look different. But you are restricted by what you can do."

Blashill had no information on whether the game against the Islanders — who put five player on the protocol list Sunday — was going to take place.

The Wings, and the rest of the NHL went into a pause last Wednesday in hopes of stemming the rapid rise of COVID cases.  The Wings have had three games postponed and have two games scheduled for this week (Wednesday at New York Islanders, Friday at home against Washington).

"Certainly there will be challenges, but I know the Islanders won't care and they may still have their own challenges," Blashill said. "It was probably the right move given where everyone was at across the league (to pause the season). We were going to have a hard time fielding a roster at that point. It's not about competitive equity as much as just filling a roster. We had a number of guys in the protocol and a number of guys continue to move into protocol over the next couple of days."

Judging by reports Sunday around the NHL, the decision to pause the schedule wasn't entirely successful. Many teams put multiple players on the protocol list — and continue to have players from last week still on the protocol list. That will put this week's schedule in jeopardy.

All NHL games are postponed until Tuesday. But there's increasing speculation all games this week might be scrapped. The NHL could return in big fashion with Saturday's Winter Classic in Minneapolis between the Wild and St. Louis Blues.

As for his own experience last week, Blashill felt fine Dec. 16 in Raleigh when the Wings played Carolina. But the coach began coughing on the flight back home, and it progressed during the early morning hours.

"I didn't feel bad during the day, and I obviously took a (COVID) test before the game," Blashill said. "I started coughing on the way home and that night I coughed a lot through the night. By the next morning, it didn't surprise me when I tested positive."

Blashill had "cold-like symptoms", with a headache, sinus issues and a cough, with the first few days being the most "severe." 


Twitter: @tkulfan