Though there was some hope that Connor McDavid’s positive COVID-19 test would not be confirmed today, Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett announced that the superstar center has now entered the protocol and will be unavailable for the team tonight when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even worse, Tippett announced that Derek Ryan and Tyson Barrie have also entered the protocol. Zack Kassian has been activated, while. Ilya Konovalov has been moved to the taxi squad.
Losing McDavid at any point of the season is bad news, but especially so for the reeling Oilers right now. The team has lost four in a row, eight of their last ten, and are in danger of slipping even further down the Pacific Division standings. At 18-13-2 on the year, they are in fourth place but just a few points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and surging Vancouver Canucks.
With losing often comes controversy, and the question of a coaching change has been brought up by the media in recent days. That was the focus on social media again this morning after Mikko Koskinen’s response to being criticized by Tippett. The coach was asked directly about the situation between him and his goaltender, explaining to reporters including Ryan Rishaug of TSN that his comments were taken out of context. Mike Smith will start in goal tonight for the undermanned Oilers.
Not only is McDavid missing though, but also Ryan and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, meaning the team will be very short on capable centers this evening. Leon Draisaitl will be asked to carry an even heavier load, while Ryan McLeod likely becomes the team’s default second-line option. Nugent-Hopkins was moved to injured reserve today.
Luckily, the team only has tonight and one more game currently scheduled before January 18, meaning McDavid and the others shouldn’t miss much actual action.
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