5:34 pm: It turns out that it was likely a false positive that put Ruhwedel on the COVID protocol list. The Penguins defenseman is off protocol the same day he entered, and is available for tonight’s game against Washington.
11:04 am: In the coming days, players entering the COVID protocol will become much less common. The league has amended its procedures to no longer require daily testing for fully vaccinated individuals, and has removed the testing requirement for close contacts. Those are set to come into effect following each club’s final game before the All-Star break, however, meaning that for today and tomorrow, things are business as normal.
It’s not surprising then to see two more players enter the protocol today. The Seattle Kraken have announced that Will Borgen is now in it, meaning he’ll be unavailable for the team’s final pre-All-Star games this week. Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan also announced to reporters including Seth Rorabaugh of the Tribune-Review that Chad Ruhwedel is in the protocol and unavailable tonight.
In Borgen’s case, it’s unfortunate timing given he had started to find a home in the Kraken lineup. The 25-year-old defenseman played just a hair under 16 minutes on Sunday against the New York Rangers, his 15th game of the season. One of the interesting expansion draft selections given how little NHL experience he had with the Buffalo Sabres, Borgen signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Kraken in August and was expected to be a full-time option for the club. Now halfway through the season and he has just a handful of games under his belt after the team loaded up on other defensemen that have sat ahead of him on the depth chart.
For Ruhwedel, it couldn’t come at a worse time, given how he has finally been a regular in the Pittsburgh lineup. The 31-year-old veteran has never played more than 44 games in a single season but has already suited up 41 times this year, as the Penguins continue to deal with injuries to various players. Even tonight, the team has announced that Brian Dumoulin is a game-time decision due to “wear and tear” meaning there may have been even more ice time up for grabs. Instead, he’ll have to miss and likely give Juuso Riikola–recalled to the taxi squad this morning–a chance to get back into the NHL lineup.