The NHL officially entered phase 2 of their ‘return to play‘ plan on Monday. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the Carolina Hurricanes have made the decision to not reopen team facilities for small group workouts. A team official said Monday that there were about seven or eight players in the area, but by mutual agreement they would continue to train on their own for now.
However, the approach to reopening team facilities and begin small group workouts varies greatly within the Metropolitan Division.
According to Pierre LeBrun, the Capitals expect three to five players to be around for the start of Phase 2. As of Friday, the team wasn’t sure when exactly they would open their practice facility, as they are still working on a few details. But a team source said they would perhaps be ready by later this week.
In Pittsburgh, it’s full steam ahead. “Well over half’’ of the Penguins’ roster was expected to be in town when Phase 2 opened. The Penguins tested players and provided COVID-19 education on Monday, with the ice surface at the UPMC Lemieux Complex ready to go. It’s expected the Penguins hit the ice on Tuesday.
The New York Rangers, the Hurricanes ‘play-in’ round opponent, expected six to seven players on hand when Phase 2 opened. They planned to have their facility opened on Tuesday.
As of Friday morning, the Blue Jackets hadn’t decided yet when exactly they would open their practice facility for players to skate but it was likely not going to be by the opening of Phase 2 on Monday, according to GM Jarmo Kekalainen. The Jackets expect around 10 players in town when Phase 2 opens.
According to NHL.com, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders are expected to open up this week as well.
Capitals players who have remained in the area and are anticipated to be the first return to MedStar include Braden Holtby, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller. TJ Oshie is also likely to participate soon, but is currently on vacation in Williamsburg, Va. Alex Ovechkin is still in Florida following the birth of his second son, Ilya. It’s likely that more players will report in the latter half of June.
Capitals players currently not in the area: Tom Wilson (Toronto), Nic Dowd (Minnesota’s), Nick Jensen (Minisota), Dmitry Orlov (Russia), Nicklaus Backstrom (Sweden), Ilya Samsonov (Russia), Jakub Vrana (Czech Republic), Michal Kempny (Czech Republic), Radko Gudas (Czech Republic), Ilya Kovulchuk (Los Angeles), Brenden Dillon (San Francisco), Jonas Siegenthaler (Switzerland), Richard Panik (Czech Republic), Garnet Hathaway (New York), Martin Fehervary (Slovakia).
In a typical ho key schedule, Capitals players have traditionally trickled into MedStar 4-6 weeks (late August) prior to the start of the season, with training camp officially starting 3-4 weeks before opening night. With current start of training camp five weeks away (at the earliest) and the projected start of the playoffs eight weeks away (at the earliest), one can see Phase 2 having a slow start.
The NHL suspended play March 12 because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, joining the other major leagues in first postponing and eventually canceling regular-season games. The Capitals played their last game on March 9 against the Buffalo Sabres. The Capitals last full team practice was on March 11 (Photos).
By Jon Sorensen