NHL Buzz: MacKinnon in COVID-19 protocol, out for Avalanche opener

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Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon will not play for the Avalanche in their season opener after the center tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

MacKinnon will not be in the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks at Ball Arena on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; TNT) but could return against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

“He’s asymptomatic and feeling good … but hopefully he’ll be able to test out,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. “…We’re hoping for Saturday, but we’ll see. “

MacKinnon finished eighth in the NHL with 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) and was plus-22 in 48 games last season. He finished third in voting for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar was also placed in COVID-19 protocol and will not be with the team against the Blackhawks.

 

Washington Capitals

Nicklas Backstrom was placed on long-term injured reserve Tuesday. 

The center will be required to miss the first 10 games of the season. Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said Monday that Backstrom has yet to resume skating because of a hip injury that’s bothered him since last season.

“There’s a process that you go through,” Laviolette said. “You start to see guys on the ice, so he was week to week. We’re pushing towards the end of what we said, and I think we’re still evaluating him to see where he’s at.

“I spoke with him today and he is improving.”

Washington opens the season against the New York Rangers on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT). — Tom Gulitti

 
Vancouver Canucks

Brock Boeser has not been ruled out for the Canucks season opener at the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) after the forward was placed on injured reserve Monday because of an undisclosed injury.

“I’m not ruling him out tomorrow,” Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Boeser has resumed skating on his own but hasn’t practiced with the Canucks since Sept. 29. He led Vancouver in goals (23) and points (49) in 56 games last season.

Forward Alex Chiasson, who attended training camp on a professional tryout (PTO), signed a one-year, $750,000 contract Tuesday.

“Alex is an established veteran who plays a physical game and brings a valuable net-front presence to our team, particularly on the power play,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “He’s a bigger player (6-foot-4, 208 pounds) that doesn’t shy away from the tough areas of the ice and has fit in well with the rest of our forward group so far.”

Benning also said defenseman Travis Hamonic will start the season with Abbotsford of the American Hockey League after clearing waivers Monday. He missed training camp and the preseason for personal reasons. — Kevin Woodley

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Mitchell Marner left practice early Tuesday after taking a hit from Wayne Simmonds, and the forward will be reevaluated Wednesday, coach Sheldon Keefe said.

“He had a bit of a glancing blow there with Simmonds on the ice,” Keefe said. “It’s just precautionary at this point in time; we will re-evaluate him in the morning and take it from there.”

The Maple Leafs will open the regular season at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

Marner had the puck in the slot and was trying to sidestep Simmonds, who caught Marner with a hit to the front of his body.

Forward Jason Spezza said he did not think Marner’s absence for the second half of practice was due to a serious issue.

“Not really concerned,” Spezza said. “I think it was just precautionary, he probably wanted a rest. I think he’ll be fine, I haven’t talked to him so maybe I shouldn’t make light of it, but it did seem like it was a pretty minor thing.” — Dave McCarthy

 

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres will not name a captain this season to replace Jack Eichel, who was stripped of the role Sept. 23.

Forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo were named alternates Tuesday.

“Two of our veteran guys that have a passion and love for not only the Sabres but Buffalo,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “They have homes here. They enjoy their time here. They spend a lot of their offseason here and they do a great job in that locker room as well as on the ice. We’re excited to have those guys — I’m excited to have those guys in our locker room and on the bench and on the ice with us. So they’re great leaders. They’ll fill that role very well for us.”

Eichel was named captain Oct. 3, 2018, one year to the day after he signed an eight-year, $80 million contract ($10 million average annual value) with the Sabres. The 24-year-old center has been the subject of trade rumors in part because of a disagreement with the team on how to treat his neck injury, which kept him out the final 33 games last season.

Eichel wants to have artificial disk replacement surgery, which never has been performed on an active NHL player, while the Sabres would like him to have fusion surgery. — Heather Engel

 

Ottawa Senators

Matt Murray did not practice Tuesday for the Senators because of an illness, and his status for their season opener is unclear.

Coach D.J. Smith said the goalie was not feeling well but that it was not COVID-19.

Backup Anton Forsberg would start against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, TSN4, ESPN+, NHL LIVE) if Murray is unable to play.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Mikko Lehtonen was suspended by the Blue Jackets and placed on unconditional waivers for failing to report to Cleveland of the American Hockey League.

The defenseman had been assigned to Cleveland on Monday after being placed on waivers Sunday.

Lehtonen had six assists in 26 games for the Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs last season, including three assists in 17 games with the Blue Jackets after he was acquired in a trade March 12. 

Lehtonen signed a one-year contract with Columbus on July 30.

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