MacLellan noted they have been in communication with the government, NHL, and team doctors during the growing regulation changes surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic. “It’s a tremendous challenge to pull this off,” he said about the resume of the season. He mentioned that Capitals players are hesitant about playing and are learning as much as they can about the Return to Play Plan.
They continue to talk with local government and the league about guidelines for players’ returns to the team’s practice facility, Medstar Capitals Iceplex. The Capitals have about six players in the D.C. area currently who could possibly be ready to skate in early June when Phase 2 begins. MacLellan says July 10 is a target date for training camp as more players from overseas will return by then.
The team will get 28 skaters and unlimited goaltenders for the playoffs. They are also considering bringing up 2019 first round pick Connor McMichael from the OHL’s London Knights as a “black ace.” MacLellan mentioned how engaged the 19-year-old center was during last year’s training camp and how he learned a lot from the veterans, especially center Nicklas Backstrom. He calls it a “great learning experience” for McMichael.
Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in the “hub” city with only a small number of support staff permitted to enter the event areas. According to MacLellan, the team has an initial list of people for the personnel limit; however, it may affect how many black aces the team could bring to the hub city.
MacLellan says the team could be at a disadvantage coming off the round-robin and going into a playoff series, but indcates there wasn’t a perfect solution. Despite a very different postseason, he knows players are competitive and does not believe the 24-team format will minimize that drive.
“I think the championship is up for grabs,” MacLellan said about the extended format. “It could be wildly entertaining.”
You can watch the full press conference here.
By Della Young