The New York Islanders experienced their first game absences due to Covid Protocol when J-G Pageau and Noah Dobson were each pulled from the lineup for Sunday’s game vs. the New Jersey Devils in Newark. Sebastian Aho got his first action of the season in place of Dobson.
#Isles Player Update: Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Noah Dobson were placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list. There will be no further comment.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 14, 2021
The official announcement came during the second intermission of the game, though it had already become clear that Pageau’s absence was related to protocol. Pageau wasn’t listed as a scratch for the game (nor in the lineup), which caused a bit of confusion and speculation that maybe we just can’t have nice Pageaus after all.
Appears that Pageau isn't just a scratch today, he's not on the 23-man #Isles roster. Awaiting word from the team as to why.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) March 14, 2021
Dobson, however, was on the ice for pre-game warmup. That raises the questions of why, and how the league’s procedures and timing worked to allow a player who was deemed a risk to appear in warmups, then held from a game that otherwise went on as planned.
The start of the game was delayed, so it’s conceivable that discussion took place. As is often noted, appearing on the protocol list doesn’t necessarily mean a player tested positive, and instead could relate to close contacts. Earlier this season Josh Bailey was briefly on the protocol list on an off day, but was removed the next day in time to play in a game. The same thing happened to Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights a few days ago.
The NHL hasn’t seen a team-level outbreak since it revised protocols following the series of positive tests that affected the Devils, Sabres and Wild earlier this season. Hopefully there is the old “abundance of caution” at work here.
But with no further comment to come, we’ll likely only know from inference based on when these players return, and if any others join them.