The Toronto Maple Leafs will be among the first teams to experience a game under the NHL’s updated COVID-19 protocols when they host the Vancouver Canucks for the first of three straight games at Scotiabank Arena.
On Wednesday night, the league sent a memo to the clubs that included several new coronavirus measures. Among them, glass partitions behind both player benches must be removed to allow for more airflow.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of cases and things popping up around the league,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The league is tightening things up on a lot of different things and we’re really fortunate to do what we’re doing here.”
The glass had already been removed by Thursday morning before the Leafs took the ice for their optional morning skate.
The NHL has seen an uptick in the amount of staff added to the league’s COVID-19 list. The New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild are the latest teams forced to postponed games by up to a week.
“We’re learning more and more about the virus,” Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews said. “The main priority is to keep people safe. Continue to make adjustments like the league has.”
The North Division has not had to postpone any games thus far. There have been a couple of instances where practices were canceled for precautionary measures, but the games have continued.
Petan makes season debut
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nic Petan will make his season debut tonight. With the Toronto Marlies since the regular season began, Petan joined the team for practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and took reps on the team’s fourth like with Travis Boyd and Jason Spezza.
Petan recorded three assists in 16 games with the Maple Leafs last season.
The Maple Leafs’ fourth line has been a revolving door since Game 3 of the regular season.
“We’re going to let it continue to evolve that it becomes obvious or there becomes a time where we get healthy and then we’re going to have some roster limitations,” Keefe said.
Keefe added that the fourth line of Travis Boyd, Pierre Engvall and Joe Anderson set the standard in a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Jan. 26. That night, Boyd scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf.
As for roster limitations, the Leafs had been trying to save on daily cap space. Long-term injuries to Nick Robertson and Joe Thornton shifted the team to bolster the lineup.
Projected Leafs Lines vs. Canucks
Zach Hyman-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner
William Nylander-John Tavares-Wayne Simmonds
Jimmy Vesey-Alex Kerfoot-Ilya Mikheyev
Nic Petan-Travis Boyd-Jason Spezza
Morgan Rielly-TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin-Justin Holl
Travis Dermott-Zach Bogosian