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Islanders Anders Lee, Ross Johnston join Josh Bailey in COVID Protocol

The hits keep coming.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Four
Don’t stand, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close...
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Trying not to let more bad news take the polish off of Saturday’s long-awaited and franchise-altering arena opening.

But on the ice, things are getting more difficult. On the day of formal ribbon-cutting ceremonies at UBS Arena, the New York Islanders announced captain Anders Lee and Ross Johnston are in COVID-19 protocol.

We don’t yet know if this will be short-term, like a positive test with no symptoms followed by negative tests (unlikely, but possible), or long-term like Josh Bailey’s situation, where the longtime Islander is stuck quarantined in Florida while the Islanders open their new home. At present, Lee and Johnston are evidently symptom-free and “honestly surprised” to have tested positive, so it’s possible they won’t be in protocol long. But that depends on multiple follow-up tests, each 24 hours apart.

Coming after Bailey’s positive test — and of course the Ryan Pulock injury — it sure feels like a harbinger of more rough times for the 5-6-2 Islanders as they open their new arena with back-to-back games against the Flames and Maple Leafs this weekend.

Other teams have experienced handfuls of cases at a time this season, so Bailey’s news during the back-to-back Florida road trip certainly raised the fear that more positive cases could be coming.

The league is not granting any salary cap relief this season when teams have to recall additional players to fill in for players in COVID protocol; so this has potential cap implications too. But Lou Lamoriello said any decision on call-ups will come after additional test results are received. UPDATE: Andrew Gross reports that some players had inconclusive results...so it’s possible that additional players will be impacted.

Hopefully it ends with Lee and Johnston. But it’s hard not to fear a worse-case scenario like the Ottawa Senators outbreak, which forced that team to play severely undermanned until the league finally postponed three of Ottawa’s games.

Fingers crossed.