CORAL SPRINGS — The Florida Panthers game scheduled for Saturday against the host Minnesota Wild has been postponed by the NHL due to an outbreak of Covid-19 within the team, Florida Hockey Now has learned.
The NHL is also expected to also postpone Florida’s game in Chicago which was set for Tuesday and Florida’s home game against the Nashville Predators on Dec. 23.
The Predators are also in the thick of a Covid outbreak.
According to NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman, the Panthers are being shut down through the Christmas break which would mean the team would not resume play until Dec. 27 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Friedman reports Florida, Colorado and Calgary are done through next week.
The Panthers, who had their charter flight to Minnesota pushed back to 4 p.m. Friday before it was shelved, had five players in the league’s Covid protocol as of Wednesday and added two players on Thursday.
None of the seven players in Covid protocol were on the ice for Friday’s practice at the IceDen and were thought to be unavailable to travel.
The big absence Friday was that of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Coach Andrew Brunette, who was expected to be feted upon his return to Minnesota on Saturday, said his starting goalie was “not feeling great this morning. So we kept him out.”
Bobrovsky reportedly missed the start of training camp last January due to a positive Covid-19 test.
With the likelihood Bobrovsky was not going to be able to travel and Florida’s inability to bring up Spencer Knight from his recent deployment to Charlotte may have pushed the postponement angle over the edge.
Per former coach Joel Quenneville, the Panthers were 100 percent vaccinated coming into this season’s training camp. The entire NHL playing roster, save for Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi, is vaccinated as well.
Despite that, positive Covid tests have been popping up throughout the NHL as well as other sports leagues.
On Thursday, the Panthers — along with other teams — played shorthanded due to Covid protocols and an inability to bring up additional players from the minors due to the salary cap.
The Panthers lost 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings and played down a forward and defenseman.
The Panthers, without Bobrovsky at practice, were looking at flying to Minnesota on Friday afternoon with one goalie.
”This is a situation that is ongoing,” Brunette said Friday morning. “We’re just trying to piece things together right now.”
The Panthers were prepared to start newly acquired Jonas Johansson in net but, because of cap constraints, may not have been able to call up Knight from Charlotte because subtracting his bonus money from the salary cap helped bring up other players in the first place.
So, Florida was looking at losing more position players or going into the Wild game by borrowing the Minnesota emergency backup goalie for Saturday’s game.
That situation flared up Thursday night in Nashville when the Colorado Avalanche found out before the game that goalie Darcy Kuemper was being pulled after a positive test.
According to various reports — including from Elliotte Friedman — the Avs were given the option to postpone the game but chose not to.
When told about the Colorado situation following Thursday’s game, Anthony Duclair seemed to be a little shocked to hear the Avs were given the opportunity to postpone but other teams — including, obviously, the Panthers — were not.
“Wow, that’s news to me,” Duclair said. “Thank you for that.”
The four players Florida brought up from Charlotte on Thursday can now be returned to the Checkers for their weekend series.
The Checkers, who have won their past three games, play host to the Bridgeport Islanders on Saturday and Sunday.
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT MINNESOTA WILD
- When: POSTPONED (Saturday, 2 p.m.)
- Where: Xcel Center, St. Paul
- Last season: Did not play
- This season: @Florida 5, Minnesota 4 (Nov. 20)