Senators place Zaitsev in COVID protocol; Thomson to make NHL debut

Senators head coach D.J. Smith says each individual COVID-19 case is different, but most are doing fine physically, but are dealing with a lot of mental stress and fear, and just want to get through this as a group and go back to playing hockey.

OTTAWA -- Defenceman Nikita Zaitsev was placed by the Senators into the NHL's COVID-19 protocol late Thursday, the third Ottawa player to be added to the list in one day.

Alex Formenton and goaltender Matt Murray were added to the COVID-19 list by the Senators earlier in the day. A total of nine Ottawa players were in the protocol when the Senators hosted the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

"All you can do is try to protect yourself as much as possible," Senators coach D.J. Smith said before the game. "Try to wear a mask, try to distance yourself and stay inside your certain circles. But at this point it's really tough because your circle is the group that has it."

Zaitsev, Murray and Formenton all played in the Senators' 3-2 loss to Boston on Tuesday.

The Senators announced forward Andrew Agozzino and defencemen Dillon Heatherington and Lassi Thomson were recalled from the American Hockey League's Belleville Senators to fill the gaps in the roster.

The Senators cancelled their practice Wednesday for precautionary reasons after defenceman Josh Brown was placed in the protocol. Forwards Austin Watson, Dylan Gambrell and Connor Brown and defencemen Victor Mete and Nick Holden were also on the list, along with associate coach Jack Capuano.

Smith said the players in protocol are "doing OK," though some are showing more symptoms than others. He said the outbreak has also taken a mental toll on the affected players.

"When your team is struggling and you want to help and you can't, that's the hardest part," he said. "Not being able to be out there with your buddies and competing."

The Senators are scheduled to host Pittsburgh on Saturday and Calgary on Sunday. Smith said he didn't know whether there has been any push from the club to postpone one or both of those games.

"That's not my job, my job is to coach the team," Smith said. "That will be up to the heads of the organization."

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