NHL Buzz: Devils return to practice Monday

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New Jersey Devils

The Devils are scheduled to practice at Prudential Center on Monday for the first time following a 13-day pause to comply with NHL COVID-19 protocols.

New Jersey (4-3-2) last played Jan. 31, a 5-3 win in the second of back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils had as many as 19 players on the protocol list since then; they entered their last game with six players on the list and four players were added the following day, when they had three games postponed.

Devils games against the Philadelphia Flyers (Feb. 11 and Feb. 13) and Boston Bruins (Feb. 15) also were postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

New Jersey had 13 players on the protocol list as of Saturday: forwards Nathan Bastian, Jesper Bratt, Nikita Gusev, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Travis Zajac; defensemen Connor Carrick, Dmitry Kulikov, Damon Severson, Ty Smith, Matt Tennyson and Sami Vatanen; and goalie Eric Comrie.

The Devils are next scheduled to visit the New York Rangers on Tuesday. New Jersey’s nine games played are the fewest this season. — Mike G. Morreale

 

Buffalo Sabres

Taylor Hall practiced for the first time since he was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol and expects to play against the New York Islanders on Monday.

The forward, who skated on a line with Eric Staal and Sam Reinhart on Saturday, said he tested positive for COVID-19 but was asymptomatic.

“Just had to quarantine for the 10 days and was able to complete a rehab skate yesterday with no issues obviously and rejoin the team today, so I’m happy to be back,” Hall said. “I think with doctors and the medical staff we still need to chat a little bit and review some things and all that. But I plan on trying to play on Monday.”

The Sabres have not played since a 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 31 and their facilities had been closed until Tuesday. Buffalo had six games postponed because of the NHL protocol.

Forwards Dylan Cozens, Curtis Lazar, Casey Mittelstadt and Tobias Rieder, and defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, Jake McCabe, Brandon Montour and Rasmus Ristolainen remained in protocol. — Heather Engel

 

Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon will return to the lineup against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).

The forward missed one game with a lower-body injury sustained in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 31. Colorado, which had four games postponed because of the NHL COVID-19 protocol, has not played since a 2-1 win against Minnesota on Feb. 2.

“Feel good, ready to go,” MacKinnon said after practice Saturday. “[Rehab] was tough, I had exercises to do. I feel really, really good coming back. I’m excited to start to go play and get into a rhythm here and start playing every other day again.”

MacKinnon was tied for third in the NHL with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) at the time of his injury. — Rick Sadowski

 

Edmonton Oilers

James Neal was placed on waivers Saturday.

The forward, who is in the third year of a five-year, $28.75 million contract ($5.75 million average annual value), has scored three points (two goals, one assist) in nine games this season, with the goals scored in an 8-5 win against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 31.

Neal was acquired in a trade with the Calgary Flames on July 19, 2019. He scored 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 55 games with Edmonton last season and scored at least 21 goals 10 times in his 13 NHL seasons.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Zach Werenski returned to the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. He had an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss in Chicago

The defenseman missed three games with a lower-body injury sustained in a 4-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 4.

Werenski played 22:26 on Saturday. He is second on the Blue Jackets in ice time per game (24:01) behind defenseman Seth Jones (25:05) and has scored five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 games this season. — Brandon Cain

 

Minnesota Wild

Matt Dumba is expected to return to the lineup when the Wild next play against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

The defenseman has missed two games since he was injured in a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 30, when he was hit by Wild forward Jordan Greenway.

“It wasn’t as bad as we thought,” Dumba said Friday. “We took all the right steps to make sure I’m feeling good today and there’s no real issues with it now.”

Minnesota, which last played Feb. 2, has had six games postponed through Saturday because of NHL COVID-19 protocol. Facilities opened Friday for the first time since Feb. 3.

“It felt great,” Dumba said. “It was honestly kind of good to have a little time off the ankle to let everything heal up. So I feel like I’m ready now.”

Forward Mats Zuccarello could return Tuesday. He has not played this season after having surgery on his right arm prior to training camp.

“I think he’s chomping at the bit,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said. “If he gets cleared, I think he’ll be ready to go (Tuesday).” — Tim Campbell

 

St. Louis Blues

Vladimir Tarasenko skated with his teammates for the first time since having shoulder surgery this offseason.

The forward, who was expected to be reevaluated five months following surgery Sept. 17, had been skating on his own since Jan. 30 and took part in an optional skate Friday prior to the game against the Arizona Coyotes.

“He’s on the ice, he’s conditioning,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Friday. “His shoulder’s certainly not 100 percent right now, but it’s at a point where the safety and the mechanisms are in place that we feel he can skate. He can receive passes, make passes, shoot to a level of his comfort. He’s still a ways away. We won’t see him for a number of weeks, but he’s certainly on the right track.” 

Tarasenko was injured Oct. 24, 2019, against the Los Angeles Kings and had surgery three days later before returning to play four games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

“I’ve been on the ice with him for a while, but he can still rip the puck like he always could,” Blues forward Zach Sanford said. “It’s good to have him back out on the ice with us and include him as part of those practices again.” — Louie Korac

 

New York Rangers

Artemi Panarin is day to day after not playing in a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday, but coach David Quinn said he’s hopeful the forward will be able to play Tuesday at home against the New Jersey Devils.

Panarin was injured during a 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins on Wednesday. He played one shift totaling 1:28 on the power play in the final 15:50 of the third period after leaving the ice in apparent pain. He did not play in overtime.

“If he was ready to go, he was going to go,” Quinn said Friday. “We don’t think it’s anything serious or long term. It’s unfortunate he won’t be able to go tonight, but we’re hopeful for the next time we play he’ll be ready to go.”

Panarin, who did not practice Saturday, leads the Rangers with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 12 games. — David Satriano

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