An expected day of COVID news continues as teams return to practice after the holiday break. It now makes 12 Florida players in COVID protocol. Wingers Frank Vatrano, Carter Verhaeghe and Ryan Lomberg, center Sam Bennett, and defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Gustav Forsling, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Montour were already in protocol.
After the NHL postponed all games on December 27, the team was supposed to return to play on December 29 against the New York Rangers. With these four skaters at the least likely being unavailable for this game, it’s entirely a possibility that the game could get postponed as well.
It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the NHL could postpone the entire schedule further as these cases continue to come in. Nearly every team’s roster is seriously affected by COVID cases at this point.
For the Panthers though, returning to play without these four is tough. Huberdeau is their team leader in scoring with 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points through 29 games, while Tippett and Luostarinen have been good depth pieces, combining for 19 points in 29 games each. Weegar is playing nearly 24 minutes a night and is an integral part of the defense.