Ryan Carpenter and Erik Gustafsson returned to Chicago Blackhawks activities from the league’s COVID-19 protocol Sunday, but one very noticeable absence remained.
Patrick Kane, who entered the protocol Saturday, wasn’t listed on the pregame roster report for the Hawks’ game against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night at the United Center.
Forward Jujhar Khaira, defenseman Riley Stillman and assistant coach Marc Crawford were added to the protocol shortly before the game. Defenseman Ian Mitchell was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs.
“With all these COVID guys, it’s so much going on, we’re just going to take it one day at a time,” coach Jeremy Colliton said Sunday morning.
The Hawks are trying to avoid extending their winless streak to six games to start the season, and it will be much more difficult without their points leader from last season available.
“It’s a big loss, you know?” Dominik Kubalík said of Kane after the morning skate. “He’s a huge part of our team, huge part of the power play. But we have to stick together. We have a lot of good guys who can produce too.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy agreed.
“He creates so much offensively,” Murphy said. “But we know we have a lot of players, lot of depth. We’re confident in our team we have tonight.”
The Hawks have had these players and staff in the protocol:
- Khaira, Stillman and Crawford (added Sunday evening).
- Kane, Carpenter and Gustafsson (added Saturday, with Carpenter and Gustafsson removed Sunday).
- Assistant coach Tomas Mitell (added Thursday).
- Goalie Kevin Lankinen (added Sept. 24, removed Sept. 27).
The Hawks announced at the outset of training camp that the team — including players, coaches and staff — is 100% vaccinated.
Kubalík said the players are doing their best to follow league protocols: “Just try to be smart, wearing masks, don’t go anywhere if we don’t have to.”
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Murphy added: “It’s on your mind knowing it’s always a possibility. Even vaccinated, there’s still a chance to get COVID. It’s unfortunate, but we trust there’s great protocols put in place and our trainers control what they can and make sure proper precautions are taken.
“When you trust that, it doesn’t linger in your mind too much because you know how you can only control how you’re performing. … Unfortunate (that it) still happens, that guys can still contract it and get sick. We just hope everyone is well with it, can heal quickly and get back.”
This season, fully vaccinated players have looser restrictions than last season, such as being able to go out to eat together. They still have requirements such as wearing masks, reporting close contact with COVID-19 risks and performing daily symptom checks.
“It’s better (this year), we’re just in a situation where a bunch of stuff is happening at once,” Colliton said. “We’re the team that’s dealing with it right now, not to say another team won’t have to deal with it later on.”
The league and players union are scheduled to meet Nov. 1 to assess transmission rates and whether to increase or decrease the frequency of testing for vaccinated players and staff. They’re set to meet again Nov. 15 to discuss whether additional testing and quarantine measures are needed to prepare for the Beijing Olympics in February.
“If they end up changing the protocols, we’ll adjust,” Colliton said, “but for now these are the rules (and) we’ve got to find a way to perform.”