SUNRISE — The latest round of Covid related issues around the sports world has now hit the Florida Panthers as the team announced a number of key players would not be available for their game against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
According to the Panthers five players — and a member of the team’s “traveling party” — have entered league Covid protocols.
The players include Ryan Lomberg (who already missed Tuesday’s loss to Ottawa due to Covid concerns), Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe, Radko Gudas and Brandon Montour.
So, the Panthers will be missing, at the very least, two of their top forwards and two top defensemen not to mention the high-energy play of Lomberg.
Bennett was the first Florida player to be affected by what appears to be a false positive test. He missed one day early in the season but was back the day after entering protocol.
According to ESPN, the league will be “implementing enhanced protocols through at least Jan. 7” following a conference call between the NHL, NHLPA and medical personnel.
Per ESPN, the Covid standard will go back to last season’s rules: Players will be tested daily, team personnel will have to wear face masks and meetings will be done virtually.
On Tuesday night, the NHL postponed the Carolina-Minnesota game after four Hurricanes players tested positive.
The Calgary Flames have shut things down until Dec. 18 as 16 players — not including coach Darryl Sutter — were in the Covid protocol.
With the Panthers having so many players in the protocol, and due to the team’s salary cap situation, it is not known whether Thursday’s game will be played at all.
Florida would be short a defenseman even if Gus Forsling returns from his non-Covid illness which kept him out on Tuesday.
The Panthers are currently carrying three goalies so a recall from Charlotte is expected.
If Florida was to receive another positive test or two on Thursday, the NHL would probably have no choice but to postpone the game.
The Panthers are next scheduled to play in Minnesota on Saturday afternoon and in Chicago on Tuesday.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
LOS ANGELES KINGS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560
- Last season: Did not play