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.
No Lee, Pulock, or Bailey sucks hockey-wise and it sucks personally for some of the longest tenured Islanders to miss this game https://t.co/A43TFCNlDP— jenny berman (@barzalline) November 19, 2021
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.
Lamoriello: We found out last night, they are in protocol. We're taking every precaution we can, back to protocols we had in the bubble. Full masks everywhere. #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) November 19, 2021
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.