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Managing COVID key for Golden Knights entering training camp

Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon couldn’t help looking across the valley and noticing the challenges that COVID-19 presented to the neighboring Raiders during the NFL season.

As his own team opens training camp, McCrimmon knows managing the coronavirus will be critical to the Knights’ success.

“You can see from watching or following the NBA and the NFL that COVID is a factor,” McCrimmon said.

The Knights completed fitness testing Sunday and hit the ice at 10:15 a.m. Monday at City National Arena. Practices are closed to the public.

McCrimmon said the camp will closely resemble the one in July before the NHL restart when the roster was divided into two groups and came together for a scrimmage at the conclusion of each practice.

Players must follow a series of COVID-19 protocols with recommendations to stay home, wear face coverings and physically distance.

Unlike the postseason when the 24 teams were isolated in a bubble and produced zero positive COVID-19 tests, games will take place in home arenas. According to the restart agreement, players will not be permitted to enter venues other than the hotel, practice facility and game arena.

The Knights confirmed in November that they had four positive COVID-19 cases. McCrimmon said Sunday there were no active cases of the coronavirus entering camp.

“This will be really important how the team handles the protocol,” McCrimmon said, “and the team that can manage to remain the healthiest is going to have a competitive advantage perhaps over those that have a tougher time, while recognizing that some of this is chance.”

Starting with the Jan. 14 season opener against Anaheim at T-Mobile Arena, the Knights will play an abbreviated 56-game schedule against division-only opponents. Colorado, Minnesota and St. Louis moved into the temporarily realigned West Division, replacing Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

“It’s going to be a sprint,” McCrimmon said. “We’re effectively beginning in the second half of the season right now, in a lot of respects, so there’s going to be a lot of hockey. It’s important to be ready, be prepared, and that’s what training camp will do for our team.”

McCrimmon confirmed that forward Peyton Krebs and defenseman Kaedan Korczak, who are playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, will join the Knights after the tournament. Each will be subject to a quarantine.

They join several other young players who hope to make an impression without the benefit of exhibition games.

At forward, Jack Dugan and Lucas Elvenes will look to make an impression along with newcomers Tomas Jurco and Dylan Sikura. On defense, Nic Hague hopes to earn a full-time job.

“I believe that we’ll be able to get a really good feel for where our players are at with that,” McCrimmon said.

The Knights are coming off a season in which they reached the Western Conference Final before getting eliminated by Dallas. They then signed star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. They are projected to be less than $125,000 over the salary cap with 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders on the roster.

McCrimmon noted that the taxi squad of four to six players required by the NHL will allow the Knights to use a 20- or 21-man roster to become cap compliant. Players on the taxi squad practice with the team and travel to games but do not count against the salary cap.

“We’ve got some ground to cover before we submit our roster for opening night,” McCrimmon said. “There’s a few different possibilities, and we’ll sort through that before the 13th of January.”

The Knights did not name a captain entering camp. McCrimmon indicated the organization would continue to examine the topic.

“It’s a really good discussion that needs to be had,” McCrimmon said. “We’ll likely have more to say about it prior to the regular season beginning.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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