It took one game for the Carolina Hurricanes to have a player land on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
Captain Jordan Staal, who played in Thursday’s season-opening 3-0 win in Detroit, was one of three players around the league, along with goalies Eric Comrie of New Jersey and Anton Forsberg of Winnipeg, added to the list. Players are placed in the protocol if they have a confirmed or unconfirmed positive test for COVID-19, isolation due to symptoms similar to those suffered from the coronavirus, or contact tracing. Players can also be placed in the protocol if they are quarantining for travel.
Staal, 32, played all 68 of the Hurricanes’ games last season and logged 15:26 in Thursday’s win. Forsberg played for the Hurricanes and its then-AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, last season and was claimed off waivers by Carolina off Tuesday as insurance with the team’s planned No. 3 goalie, Alex Nedeljkovic, set to himself go on waivers. After Nedeljkovic cleared waivers and was assigned to the Hurricanes’ taxi squad, Carolina placed Forsberg on waiver and he was claimed Friday by Winnipeg. The Jets claimed Forsberg because they had earlier lost Comrie to the Devils on the waiver wire.
The implementation of taxi squads — four to six players for each team who have been assigned to the squad using the same rules that would be required to assign them to the minor leagues — was put in place so teams could have players readily available in case its roster was impacted by COVID-19.
Carolina took all six of its taxi squad members — Nedeljkovic; forwards Morgan Geekie, Steven Lorentz and Max McCormick; and defensemen Joakim Ryan and Jake Bean — with them to Detroit for the two games (Thursday’s opener and Saturday’s upcoming game) against the Red Wings. Teams are required to bring a third goalie on the road with them (either one on the NHL roster or the taxi squad goalie) but do not have to travel with any of their other taxi squad members.
Geekie is the odds-on favorite to take Staal’s spot in the lineup for Thursday’s game. The 22-year-old center made his NHL debut last season just prior to the COVID-19 stoppage and started off with a bang: He had two goals and an assist on March 8 in a win at Pittsburgh in his first NHL game, then scored again two days later in Detroit. Geekie played eight postseason games for the Hurricanes last season, registering one assist.