Virus positives play role in first round of NHL playoffs

Players testing positive for the coronavirus late in the NHL’s regular season and at the start of the playoffs affected multiple teams

The St. Louis Blues were swept in the first round by Colorado after three players who said they were vaccinated against COVID-19 tested positive, landed on the league’s protocol list and were unavailable. Blues leading scorer David Perron said Tuesday he and forward Nathan Walker were vaccinated before each tested positive; the team said defenseman Jake Walman was fully vaccinated and re-testing came back positive for the virus, sending him into quarantine.

The Washington Capitals lost to Boston in five games after Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov missed time for mandatory quarantine despite neither experiencing any symptoms. Kuznetsov and Samsonov said they had COVID-19 earlier in the season, when they were out for several weeks.

“The rules (say) if you tested positive for COVID, then they retest the test and if it (came back) positive you have to quarantine for 10 days,” Kuznetsov said Tuesday. “Then you go for (a) physical couple days, then you can skate with the team after 14 days. So, I mean, that is basically what was happened.”

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he believed nine of the 12 U.S. playoff teams reached the 85% “fully vaccinated” threshold required for relaxed virus protocols, which began at the start of the playoffs. The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are the only team so far to confirm fully vaccinated status.

The four North Division playoff teams are currently unable to get there because of Canada’s plan to delay second vaccine doses. That division is down to three after Winnipeg swept Edmonton.

The NHL last week investigated testing irregularities that led to multiple false positives for the Blues and Vegas Golden Knights and found it to be a laboratory error. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said his team had nine false positives in one day.

After 51 regular-season games were postponed, none have had to be pushed back so far in the playoffs. The only potential scare was Game 2 between Colorado and St. Louis, which went ahead after a league investigation.

“You are always worried about false positives, but that’s been a concern all year long and doesn’t really relate to vaccinated status,” Daly said in an email. “I would imagine the concern has decreased significantly in a more vaccinated environment.”

Since the playoffs began May 15, only the Blues and Capitals had players on the COVID-19 protocol list — Perron, Walker, Walman, Kuznetsov and Samsonov.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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