Wild Avalanche Hockey

Colorado Avalanche left wing Andre Burakovsky takes a break during a game against the Minnesota Wild in Denver this year. Burakovsky is one of five Avalanche players who entered the NHL’s COVID protocols Friday, prompting the team to postpone games.

The NHL announced Friday that the Colorado Avalanche's next four games have been postponed.

"Due to concern with the number of positive cases within the last two days as well (as) concern for continued COVID spread in the coming days, the Colorado Avalanche’s and Florida Panthers’ games...will be postponed at least through the scheduled completion of the league’s holiday break (sic) in the schedule on Dec. 26,” a release stated. “The decision was made by the NHL’s, the NHLPA’s and the club (sic) medical groups.

“A decision on when each team’s training facilities will re-open will be made by the league (sic) and the NHLPA in the coming days.”

The postponed Avalanche games are Dec. 18 at home vs. Tampa Bay; Dec. 20 at Detroit; Dec. 22 at Buffalo; and Dec. 23 at Boston. The league is “reviewing and revising” the regular-season schedules of the affected teams.

Professional sports have been adjusting to a wave of positive test results. The NBA's Chicago Bulls have rescheduled multiple games and on Friday the NFL rescheduled three games from this weekend to be played Monday and Tuesday of next week. The pause for the NHL’s Calgary Flames was extended until after the holiday break for a total of six postponed games.

The Avalanche had four more players enter league COVID protocol on Thursday. Forwards Andre Burakovsky and J.T. Compher, defenseman Cale Makar and goaltender Darcy Kuemper were unavailable to play against the Nashville Predators.

Including defenseman Devon Toews, the Avalanche had five players in protocol. Coach Jared Bednar said an option to postpone Thursday’s game was communicated, but the team didn’t use it.

Colorado arrived in Nashville with a full roster but sent out 15 skaters for puck drop Thursday instead of the usual 18, plus one NHL goaltender instead of two. Defenseman Jack Johnson got a negative test result following a positive and joined his teammates after the game started. Due to a variety of factors, the bench remained short.

“It’s tough. Nobody could predict that this could happen,” forward Mikko Rantanen said following a 5-2 loss. “We had a full lineup when we left from Denver and then guys were dropping today.”

As starting goalie Kuemper had entered protocol, Pavel Francouz was pressed into action with emergency backup goaltender Dustin Smith as the last resort.

“They're all sitting here ready to play,” Bednar said after the game. “If we’re going to keep testing healthy players, then we’re going to keep getting some results we don’t like and players are going to be sitting when they’re ready to play.”

Toews was once described as symptomatic but the rest of the group was not. Forward Nathan MacKinnon tested positive but was said to be asymptomatic earlier in the season, turned in two negative tests and rejoined the team early.

“They're all not symptomatic so I guess they have the option to test out of it, if I’m still understanding that right,” Bednar said of Thursday’s additions to the protocol list. “I’m hoping that they can come back sooner.”

Colorado’s next scheduled game is Dec. 27 at the Vegas Golden Knights.

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