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Blues place four players on Covid-19 protocol list

Just in time for return to play on Tuesday.

St Louis Blues v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL extended the holiday pause through tomorrow’s scheduled games, to Monday night’s tilt against the New Jersey Devils has been postponed. The next game on the Blues’ schedule is Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers, and there will be four Blues sitting this one out.

Ok, three, because James Neal is already on the IR.

The Blues announced on Sunday that Neal, Ivan Barbashev, Robert Bortuzzo, and Dakota Joshua are on the Covid-19 protocol list. That benches them for the next ten days barring a false positive, which means that their hopes of playing in the Winter Classic (which is totally happening, you guys) are officially shot.

Between an extended Christmas break and just the sheer communicability of the omicron variant, teams are going to have positives kick up. Most teams haven’t had the rash of injuries that the Blues have. With these four, and Oskar Sundqvist, on the Covid-19 list, it also means that the Blues are short Robert Thomas, Brayden Schenn, Jake Walman, David Perron, and Jordan Kyrou.

That’s now ten players who won’t suit up on Wednesday, more than likely. Coach Craig Berube offered this nugget of hope, but it’s not a guarantee:

What will the lineup look like Wednesday night? Your guess is as good as Chief’s.

UPDATE: The NHL’s brought back taxi squads. From the league’s press release:

Clubs will be permitted to form Taxi Squads on a temporary basis beginning on Dec. 26, 2021 (subject to Holiday Roster Freeze restrictions), and lasting through the date of their final game prior to the scheduled dates for the 2022 All-Star Break. After each Club’s final game before the All-Star Break, its Taxi Squad will dissolve. Clubs may then recall or Reassign the Players that were assigned to the Taxi Squad.

Clubs will be permitted to assign a maximum of six (6) Players to their Taxi Squad. All such assignments will be subject to Waiver requirements as applicable. No individual Player may spend more than twenty (20) cumulative days on the Taxi Squad during the temporary formation period.

The league has also tweaked some of their emergency call up rules, which I like to think the Blues helped inspire:

A Club shall be permitted to recall a Player pursuant to the Roster Emergency Exception with an Averaged Amount (if calculated exclusive of Exhibit 5 Performance Bonuses) that is no more than $1,000,000. For purposes of clarity, any Performance Bonuses earned by a Player recalled pursuant to Section 50.10(e) shall be included in determining a Club’s Performance Bonus Overage for the 2022-23 season.

If a Club has fewer than two (2) goaltenders on its Active Roster who are able to play in the Club’s next Regular Season game due to injury or illness, it will be permitted to recall a goaltender immediately without the Club playing the previous game with fewer than two (2) goaltenders.

Additionally, should both goaltenders on a Club’s Playing Roster become incapacitated during an NHL Game, the Club will similarly be permitted to immediately recall a goaltender for purposes of playing in such NHL Game.

If a Club has fewer than twelve (12) forwards or six (6) defensemen on its Active Roster who are able to play in its next Regular Season game specifically by virtue of Players being unavailable due to COVID-19 Protocol, such Club will be permitted to recall Players at the deficient positions without the Club having to play the previous game with fewer than 18 skaters.

Better late than never, guys.