Tuesday marks the second day of NHL return-to-play training camps, allowing all 24 clubs set to resume play to hit the ice for full-team workouts and practices with coaches as they re-start their quest for the Stanley Cup.
As we outlined in yesterday’s blog to mark the official opening of Phase 3, media members are permitted into the facilities — though they must wear masks, follow social distancing rules, and are not allowed in any areas where players are. That means all press conferences and interviews are still being conducted virtually, to ensure everyone’s health and safety.
Here’s a look at what’s happening at rinks around the league on Day 2 of the newly-opened NHL training camps. Check back throughout the day as we update with new developments from around the NHL:
Maple Leafs replace Timothy Liljegren on Phase 3 roster
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced on Tuesday that defenceman Mac Hollowell has been named to the club’s Phase 3 roster, replacing rookie rearguard Timothy Liljegren.
Liljegren was the only player absent from the opening day of camp on Monday, and was designated “unfit to play” by the team in accordance with the new league rule that centralizes all players’ health and injury updates with the league and not specific teams. As Sportsnet‘s Shawn McKenzie noted, Liljegren was seen at the Leafs’ facilities on Tuesday.
Liljegren, 21, made his debut with the Maple Leafs during the second half of this season, getting a chance to suit up on the club’s bruised-up blue line down the stretch. Hollowell, also 21, spent the bulk of 2019-20 with the AHL’s Marlies (three goals and 12 points through 34 games) after starting the season with the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers.
After initially being named to the Phase 3 return-to-play roster on Sunday, Hollowell was replaced by forward Nic Petan later the same day but now gets another opportunity.
Special plays for special teams
The Maple Leafs brought in officials on Tuesday in an effort to improve their special teams by simulating in-game situations.
The Leafs’ struggles on the penalty kill have been well-documented in post-seasons past, ultimately falling apart against Boston last spring and costing them the first-round series.
The power-play squad, on the other hand, is looking pretty smooth:
Weber out for Tuesday’s practice
After leading the team through much of Monday’s warmup and on-ice drills (and giving us all a glimpse of his pandemic-turned-playoff beard), Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber was not present at Tuesday’s practice.
He did, however, hit the ice after practice for a skating session, and Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported that head coach Claude Julien expects Weber to be back at full practice Wednesday.
Habs fans are with their team, even when they can’t be
While training camps are, of course, closed to fans, the Canadiens found a creative way to let their players know the fans are rooting for them — from home:
Ovi’s still Ovi
In times like these, sometimes all we crave is a sense of normalcy. So here’s Alex Ovechkin, doing what he does best:
Stamkos skates again
Steven Stamkos, who’s recovering from a lower-body injury sustained during Phase 2, hit the ice again for a solo session. No word yet on when he’ll be able to join the team for practice.
Goalies aren’t messing around today
Canadiens netminder Carey Price put on a pretty good show on Monday, and his peers in the blue paint are following suit on Tuesday.
Carey Price est de retour, tout le monde.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) July 14, 2020
Among Tuesday’s hockey highlights are some top-notch saves. Philadelphia Flyers veteran netminder Brian Elliott, Tampa Bay Lightning starter Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Winnipeg Jets star Connor Hellebuyck are in fine form after the hiatus:
“Did you get that?”
— x-Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) July 14, 2020
Meanwhile, over in Edmonton, Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are really battling it out:
A battle along the boards between Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen.pic.twitter.com/UE0DpAROhp
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 14, 2020
Get ready for goalie goals in Vancouver…
Panthers have an opening behind the bench
Florida Panthers assistant coach Mike Kitchen announced Monday, with full support from his NHL club, that he’s not joining the team in its return-to-play for personal and health reasons.
In his absence, Panthers reporter George Richards noted that Springfield Thunderbirds head coach Geordie Kinnear is behind one of the benches for Phase 3 and could sub in for Kitchens.
Blues heading into overtime already
The St. Louis Blues aren’t easing into camp, and reigning Conn Smythe winner Ryan O’Reilly is leading the way.
We’ve also got a Vladimir Tarasenko sighting… Tarasenko hasn’t played since the end of October, poised to return from shoulder surgery just as the league came to a halt in March. He was activated off injured reserve on Monday.
Head coach Craig Berube said No. 91 shows no signs of rust.
Look who else is putting in the extra work:
Welcome back, Vatanen
Here’s a face we haven’t seen in a while:
The Devils traded defenceman Sami Vatanen to the Hurricanes at February’s deadline, but because he was injured at the time, he wasn’t able to make his debut before league operations were suspended a few weeks later. He skated with teammates during Phase 2, and is now finally able to participate in team activities as he prepares for an especially long-awaited Hurricanes debut.
Eller said he’s planning to leave NHL bubble for birth of child
While we all enjoy the hockey highlights coming our way, it’s important to also keep in the mind the personal side of this return-to-play, too, as players prepare to leave their families and get back to the game. Capitals forward Lars Eller shared some insight into his own mindset, and the level of trust each player must have in his teammates in order to keep everyone healthy at this stage.
Eller also said he plans on leaving Toronto’s NHL bubble to be with his wife, Julie, during the birth of the couple’s second child. Eller said during a conference call that he’s working with the Capitals on “making the necessary arrangements so I can be there for the birth and then come back to the bubble after that.” (Quotes via Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.)
All eyes on the young guys
Included in the return-to-play protocols are guidelines around teams bringing in some extra depth, which means we’re seeing some younger prospects getting some time with the big clubs in camp.
Nick Robertson (Leafs), Brogan Rafferty and Kole Lind (Canucks) and Adam Ruzicka (Flames) are getting some looks.
The Canucks’ top prospect from Utica is now on the ice as Kole Lind takes his first skate with the second group. pic.twitter.com/FxDK1fdjhi
— Faber (@ChrisFaber39) July 14, 2020
The kid, picking corners like it's nothing pic.twitter.com/gJJRNKsKx5
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) July 14, 2020
Exhibition games taking shape
We’ll close out the Day 2 camp learnings with a note from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman on how exhibition games might take shape once teams are in their NHL bubbles and gearing up for the real deal: