June 28: Armia was not present at morning skate, but is on a private jet to Tampa according to interim head coach Luke Richardson. Armia has been cleared from the COVID protocol and is a game-time decision. Evans was a full participant and is no longer wearing a non-contact sweater, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.
June 27: On the eve of the Stanley Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiens have issued some bad news. Forward Joel Armia was absent at practice on Sunday morning and without any previous indication of injury, the speculation began. GM Marc Bergevin confirmed the prevailing theory to the media afterward: Armia is in COVID Protocol.
Bergevin did not reveal any additional details, but an update is expected on Monday. In the meantime, Armia did not travel to Tampa with the team for the first two games of the series. Whether it would be an option for him to travel separately if cleared from the protocol remains to be seen. This is now the second time that Armia has landed on the COVID Protocol Related Absences list, following a previous stint in March. At that time, he tested positive and the Canadiens had a number of games postponed. So far, there has been no indication that Armia’s current situation will impact the Stanley Cup Final schedule.
Of course, the current concern with interim head coach Dominique Ducharme testing positive last week and sidelined for 14 days, is that Armia’s status could be more than just a case of a false positive or close contact. If Armia is positive for COVID, it would mean the end of his season with just seven games left in the NHL year. Armia, who only recorded 14 points in the regular season, has taken his game to the next level in the playoffs. He has eight points in 17 games and is tied for the team lead in goals. The presence he brings to both the third line and penalty kill will be sorely missed if he cannot play at all in the series. The Canadiens hope that tomorrow’s update will bring different news.
The thin silver lining of the report today is that Jake Evans appears primed to step into Armia’s spot in the starting lineup for the time being. Evans has not played since being injured in Game One of the North Division title series with the Winnipeg Jets, but appears to have made a full recovery from the massive check that knocked him out. Despite the scoring presence lost by Armia, the Habs seems more interested in replacing his two-way ability with Evans than adding an offensive asset like Tomas Tatar.