Steve Spott didn’t have many details about when defenseman Alex Pietrangelo will be available or who might be behind the bench when the Golden Knights resume play Friday.
But the assistant coach was certain of this:
“I know our team is looking forward to playing Friday night,” said Spott, who used some variation of that phrase on three occasions when speaking to the media Wednesday.
For the first time in more than a week, the Knights practiced at City National Arena after their season was halted in accordance with the NHL’s COVID protocol.
Spott put the team through drills and was joined on the ice by goaltending coach Mike Rosati and director of hockey operations Misha Donskov.
Coach Pete DeBoer was not in attendance, nor were assistants Ryan Craig and Ryan McGill. The league said last week that three members of the Knights’ coaching staff were being isolated in connection with COVID protocol.
Spott wasn’t sure whether those coaches would be cleared by the NHL ahead of Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena.
“There’s a lot of balls in the air right now,” Spott said. “The challenge for us is to make sure that we are following the protocols that are in place. If all goes well, then hopefully we’ll be back in business.”
The Knights’ game against St. Louis on Jan. 28 was postponed and rescheduled, along with this week’s two-game series against San Jose after three coaches and a player entered the NHL’s COVID protocol. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said Monday a member of the taxi squad also is in the protocol, but he declined to identify the player.
Pietrangelo was the lone Knights player on the NHL’s list of COVID protocol-related absences Wednesday, and there was nearly a full complement of players at practice.
Taxi squad forward Gage Quinney did not participate, and defenseman Brayden McNabb is on long-term injured reserve. Defenseman Kaedan Korczak, a second-round pick in 2019, was added to the taxi squad.
The Knights closed their facility at City National Arena on Jan. 27, and captain Mark Stone compared the time off to a bye week or returning from the All-Star break.
“We talked throughout the seven days, more just joking around with each other,” Stone said. “That’s what you miss when you don’t play. The camaraderie of coming to the rink. We kind of tried to do that throughout text.
“I think guys did a good job of finding ways to do stuff. Whether that was in their garage as a gym. Some guys have saunas. Anything you can do to try to get that edge.”
The Knights (5-1-1, 11 points) spent the majority of their hourlong workout under Spott refining details of their five-on-five systems and preparing for a Kings team that has dropped two straight.
Defenseman Nick Holden was joined on the third pairing by rookie Dylan Coghlan, who could make his NHL debut if Pietrangelo is not back and the Knights go with six defensemen.
If Pietrangelo is confirmed positive and symptomatic during his isolation, the NHL protocol states he can return after at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared or with two negative tests.
“For us as coaches, it’s just making sure we’re prepared for whatever comes at us,” Spott said. “It’s a new world that we’re dealing with right now at a lot of different levels. As coaches in the National Hockey League, we just have to make sure we’re prepared for the unexpected.”