Thursday is Day 11 of NHL summer training camp, which means it’s crunch time for clubs as they prepare for life in the bubble.
As we’ve been doing throughout camp, here’s a collection of news and notes from the day’s action around the league:
Rangers not ready to name starter yet
We’ve got some intriguing goaltender battles happening around the league, with the New York Rangers being a particularly interesting case.
Between veteran Henrik Lundqvist, third-year Alexandar Georgiev, and rookie Igor Shesterkin, head coach David Quinn has quite the decision on his hands. Luckily, he knows he’s got time to ponder this one — and he’s going to use it.
Quinn has maintained throughout camp that he’s taking a careful approach to this crucial decision, and has been quick to praise all three. Shesterkin’s strong showing at camp and excellent numbers as a rookie this year — he was in the starter at the time of the NHL pause in March, but has just 12 games’ worth of NHL experience — makes him the exciting new netminder many fans want to see. Lundqvist’s experience, however, could lead him to get the upper hand.
Stamkos still skating, no full practice yet
Steven Stamkos, who has yet to join the main group at practice throughout Phase 3, was on the ice Thursday morning for a skating session with the club’s call-ups.
Stamkos suffered a lower-body injury during Phase 2’s voluntary workouts, but has been expected to be in the lineup when the Tampa Bay Lightning resume play next month.
Canadiens defencemen Brett Kulak and Xavier Ouellet skated for the first time all camp on Wednesday, with Ouellet then joining the main group for practice. Kulak did the same on Thursday, making his full-practice debut.
Ouellet opens up about getting positive COVID-19 test
Ouellet’s absence, we found out Thursday, was due to a confusing series of COVID-19 tests
Jets’ Bitetto endured 29-day quarantine following positive test
Winnipeg Jets defenceman Anthony Bitetto also revealed his own positive COVID-19 test on Thursday upon making his camp debut after a 29-day quarantine.
Romanov’s (really) long journey leads him to
Toronto Montreal Toronto
The latest news on the Montreal Canadiens‘ newly signed defenceman is that he’ll be quarantining in Toronto after all. Alex Romanov flew to North America earlier this week so he could join the team in the Toronto bubble for practices. The initial plan was for him to land in Toronto to get a head start on fulfilling his quarantine requirements, but the league ruled against it and said he’d have to head to Montreal instead. Another day and another reversal later, it looks like the rearguard can finally rest his head (for at least seven days) in Toronto.
Romanov isn’t eligible to actually play for the Canadiens when they resume competition, but it’ll be great experience for him to be with the big club in the bubble.
Tortorella’s in mid-season form
The Columbus Blue Jackets head coach refused to address the media after Tuesday night’s scrimmage, and he didn’t appear to be happy with the club’s practice efforts Thursday morning.
Habs coach Claude Julien’s in fine form, too:
Still no Samsonov
The 23-year-old put up strong numbers prior to the hiatus this season, and while the return-to-play starting gig has long belonged to veteran Braden Holtby, the Capitals would certainly feel a lot more confident knowing Samsonov’s ready and waiting just in case.
Samsonov is the only member of the Capitals who has yet to participate in Phase 3.
Couturier misses day at camp for the best reason
A happy note we missed from yesterday’s Flyers practice: Couturier wasn’t at camp Wednesday for the happiest of reasons — he was headed to the hospital as his wife, Laurence, went into labour. The couple is expecting a baby girl. He wasn’t listed on either of the Flyers’ scrimmage rosters Thursday.
“Next time we see him, he’s going to be a father,” head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters during a media availability Wednesday. “That’s good news for him, it’s certainly good news for the Flyers family — we’ve got another beautiful young child coming on the way.”
Goaltender Brian Elliott, father of two boys, said he’s glad his teammate is able to still be in Philadelphia for the life-changing moment, but feels for Couturier as he’ll be leaving so soon after meeting his newborn daughter.
“I feel bad for him, you’re having a kid and you’ve got to leave right away,” Elliott said. “It’s such a magical moment and you want to be part of it as much as you can. It’s going to be tough leaving a new mom and a baby behind short term, but I’m really happy for them. It’s such a cool time. I’m just glad that they’re able to do it while he’s here. I can’t wait to meet another one of the Flyers family, for sure.”
Will Hurricanes have to play without Hamilton again?
The Carolina Hurricanes were without Dougie Hamilton for Thursday’s practice, one day after the star defenceman left the ice midway through Wednesday’s session. Those in attendance on Wednesday said the rearguard skated off in visible discomfort — a troubling sight for the ‘Canes, who were forced to play without Hamilton for the second half of the season.
“He’s a talented player and very unique on the offensive side of things,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters on Thursday. “He was certainly missed when he was out for a large portion of the year and he’s a huge part of the offence of our team, so obviously we’re hoping that this isn’t something that’s long term.”
Hamilton underwent surgery in January to repair a broken left fibula. With a recovery timeline of four to six months, he was still on the mend when the league pressed pause on March 12 but was back to good health when training camp opened earlier this month.
Teams about to preview life in the bubble
Motivation comes in many forms
Edmonton’s “secure zone” continues to take shape
We’ve seen some photos from Toronto’s bubble, and now Mark Spector shares a progress report from Edmonton — which includes a COVID-style outdoor lounge for players.
Toews is back, Crawford isn’t
The good news for the Chicago Blackhawks is that captain Jonathan Toews returned to practice on Thursday after missing a few days for “maintenance.”
The worrisome news is that No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford has still not joined the team at camp.
Crawford has been listed as “unfit” for all of Phase 3, with general manager Stan Bowman still sounding hopeful earlier this week that the netminder would be able to accompany the team into the Edmonton bubble ahead of their qualifying round series against the Oilers.
The waiting game continues.
Makar skates again, MacKinnon misses practice
Colorado’s Calder finalist, Cale Makar, has missed most of this week’s practices but did hit the ice earlier Thursday for a skate prior to the main group’s session (which he didn’t join). A good sign for the Avalanche.
Makar Watch update
Cale did on-ice drill work before the the start of practice, no number on jersey, and skated off. Good news, but likely won’t participate in today’s scrimmage.
Also, seems to indicate Makar did not test COVID-19 positive, since he is not quarantined. pic.twitter.com/nsVKKA554N
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) July 23, 2020
Now, nobody panic, but… the club’s Hart finalist, Nathan MacKinnon, was not present at practice.
A number of players have missed time due to maintenance ahead of the marathon that will be life in the bubble. While teams’ inability to comment on reasons for players’ absences leads to some worst-case thinking, here’s hoping for Colorado’s sake that it’s just maintenance for No. 29.
Pacioretty’s absence extended
The Vegas Golden Knights have been without forward Max Pacioretty all week, and that continued Thursday. Head coach Pete DeBoer has stated from the start that it is not COVID-related.
Apparently, there was a rare Pacioretty sighting Wednesday: