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Golden Knights’ holiday break to start early after NHL-NHLPA decision

Updated December 20, 2021 - 8:43 pm

The Golden Knights’ holiday break will start earlier than expected.

The Knights’ Thursday matchup with the Los Angeles Kings was postponed Monday by the NHL and NHL players association. The two sides announced they decided to suspend operations Wednesday through Saturday after more than 100 players entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol.

The Knights’ Tuesday game with the Tampa Bay Lightning is still a go. It is one of two remaining games on the NHL schedule out of an original 10.

Teams will be allowed to return to their facilities Sunday at 2 p.m. local time. The schedule will resume Dec. 27.

No makeup date for the Kings’ game was announced. The Knights said all ticket holders will receive an email from them regarding the game.

“We apologize for any inconvenience, but our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of our fans,” the Knights said in a statement.

The Knights are one of the few teams with a schedule the NHL and NHLPA’s decision affects. Ten teams were already shut down through the league’s annual break Friday through Sunday. Twelve more had no games scheduled until after the pause.

The Knights’ matchup with the Kings was one of five scheduled for Thursday that were postponed. The NHL has postponed a total of 49 games as COVID-19 outbreaks have hit its teams.

The continued spread of the virus led to the league and players association agreeing to tighter restrictions Saturday through Jan. 7 that include daily testing, increased masking, no more dining out on the road and an emphasis on virtual meetings.

The two sides said Sunday they hoped to avoid an NHL-wide pause because the majority of players testing positive were not getting seriously ill thanks to their high vaccination rate. But two additional games were postponed Monday and two more teams were shut down through the holiday break.

That left the NHL with eight games left on its schedule Monday through Thursday out of an original 34.

The early holiday break makes it even more unlikely the league will go to the 2022 Winter Olympics. The players fought to go in negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement extension in 2020. The league and players association said Sunday, however, the pandemic led to renewed discussions and a decision regarding player participation was expected in the coming days.

The NHL could use the Olympic break in its schedule to catch up on its postponed games. Arena availability will make planning tricky. T-Mobile Arena, for example, is scheduled to host concerts from artists Kane Brown (Feb. 6), George Strait (Feb. 11-12) and Justin Bieber (Feb. 20) while players are supposed to be in Beijing.

The Knights, who are fully vaccinated, have not had any players make a recent appearance in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. They were not scheduled to practice Monday and players are not tested on off days.

The team did lose left wing Mattias Janmark before opening night and was without right wing Michael Amadio and left wings Jonathan Marchessault and William Carrier in November. Centers Brett Howden and William Karlsson were also briefly in the protocol.

The Knights were one of two teams, along with the Washington Capitals, whose schedules hadn’t been altered before Monday night’s decision.

The Lightning have likewise avoided COVID-19 disruptions for the most part. They haven’t had a player go in the protocol all season.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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