Eight Ottawa Senators players, assistant coach removed from COVID-19 protocol
OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators say eight players and an assistant coach have been removed from the NHL's COVID-19 protocol.
Three of the team's games were postponed this week due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the club, affecting 10 players and an assistant coach. Tuesday's game against the New Jersey Devils has been rescheduled to Dec. 6. New dates for Thursday's game against the Nashville Predators and Saturday's game against the New York Rangers have yet to be announced.
On Saturday, the team announced Connor Brown, Josh Brown, Alex Formenton, Dylan Gambrell, Nick Holden, Victor Mete, Matt Murray, and Austin Watson had been removed from the COVID-19 protocol, along with assistant coach Jack Capuano.
Drake Batherson and Nikita Zaitsev remain in the COVID-19 protocol at this time.
All players and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Senators returned to practice Saturday morning at the Canadian Tire Centre. The team is scheduled to return to play Monday at Colorado.
"It's been an unfortunate time, where he had to be shut down, but it's great to be back," head coach D.J. Smith told reporters Saturday. "As the practice went on, it dragged a little bit for them, you could see, but certainly the first 30 minutes, I thought we were really sharp and then we got a little bit sluggish, but I was happy with the way things went today."
Smith said it's unclear if Zaitsev and Batherson would be available by Monday's game against the Avalanche.
"We're hopeful, but we'll wait on the doctors and everyone involved to give me official dates involved with those two," said Smith.
Calling the situation "uncharted waters", Smith said he would monitor the team's health as they prepare for a lengthy road trip to the western United States.
"I've talked to other coaches around the league whose players have gone through it," he said. "Some came back with no issues, some came back the first game and felt horrible, so we're going to have to see as we go, here. If we have to give guys a day off here or there or put some fresh guys in to give them the time to recoup, we'll certainly do that."
Smith said the goal is to move past the situation and focus on the present and the future.
"We've got to put it behind and us and we've got to stop the noise. It's hard enough to win in the league with no noise and everyone healthy," he said. "The more you talk about it and the more you dwell on things that have happened in the past, the more you're going to feel negative about the situation. It happened. It's unfortunate. It's a global pandemic, and we're just lucky that no one had it really, really bad. We're just going to move forward and continue to get better every day. We just want to get back to playing hockey."
'I got whacked pretty good'
Forward Austin Watson told reporters he feels pretty good now, but it was a different story when he first came down with COVID-19. Watson was placed into the COVID-19 protocol on Nov. 5.
"Oh yeah, I got whacked pretty good on Friday and Saturday when I first got it," he said. "You know, the symptoms they talk about, the chills and the body aches and stuff like that but, all in all, after those first couple of days it almost felt like everything had kind of gone back to normal and it was just a matter of getting back in shape after that."
He says he's ready to play on Monday and he's ready to move forward.
"The challenge for us is to move forward. There's been a lot of talk. Every day it's a new article or a new development and you know, it's just the world that we live in," he said. "For us, we need to take the break for our health and safety that the league was able to provide to us and really get back to square one and just try to move forward having gotten everybody to place where everybody's healthy and safe."
Watson said his wife also contracted COVID-19 but his two daughters were all right.
"(They) were kind of wondering what mom and dad were doing, wearing masks and telling them we couldn't give hugs for a little while, so that was a little bit of difference in our lives," he said. "Luckily, through the benefit of the testing that we do have in place, we were able to find out we did have it and able to take the right precautions with our kids to minimize the risk that they had. Fortunately, we're on the other end of it now."