NHL adjusts testing protocol to address false positives for COVID-19

On this edition of 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discuss the Chicago Blackhawks firing Jeremy Colliton, Jack Eichel's looming surgery, the St. Louis Blues asking for COVID-19 cap relief, and more.

The effects of COVID-19 are still being so deeply felt around the league that a new testing protocol has been put into place to try solve some of the issues raised by false positives.

"There was a conversation about the testing," Sportsnet's Elliott Friedman said during the 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. "I think some teams in the league said, 'Should we be testing vaccinated players as much as we are?' and some of the doctors pushed back and said, 'Look, if you don't want to cancel games and you still want to go to the Olympics, we can't do this.'

"But they did make one interesting protocol change to try to address the case of false positives – they have worked on a system where they can expedite the ability to test and make sure those are actual positives, and not false positives, by using what they can at the facilities, the very good tests at the facilities, instead of the tests that go to the lab and show issues. So, that was the way they decided to attack it – is there a way we can speed it up to make sure that the tests are accurate?"

Teams have found themselves so shorthanded by sudden outbreaks that they've struggled to ice a full team or have faced using replacement goaltenders. And when teams have to call up replacements for players who have been placed into COVID-19 protocol, some teams have struggled to fit these call-ups under the hard salary cap, which has resulted in requests for special salary-cap relief.

"The latest team to ask was St. Louis," Friedman said. "The Blues asked this week if there was any possibility of relief because they were shorthanded, and the Blues, of course, are fully vaccinated. They have a situation where it's gone through their lineup and they wanted to call up Scott Perunovich, who's having a great year in the American Hockey League, but they just didn't have the room to do it.

"The answer, I'm told, the Blues got was that we're just not going to do that at this point in time. So, that's where we are."

An NHL game has yet to be postponed this year because of COVID-19. However, a game last week between the Sharks and Jets was delayed almost half an hour after seven Sharks and their head coach were placed into COVID protocol.

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