New Jersey Devils: An End To COVID-19 Pause Seems To Be In Sight

New Jersey Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri (21): (Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri (21): (Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils finally saw a sizeable number of players come off the protocol list on Saturday.

After the New Jersey Devils saw nothing but bad news in regards to their COVID-19 protocol list (Sami Vatanen coming off then going back on for mysterious reasons, Kyle Palmieri and Pavel Zacha both coming off because of a mistake by the league, Nico Hischier going on for whatever reason, sitting with 19 players on the list for close to a week), the team finally got good news on Saturday.

Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, and Pavel Zacha all came off the list, leaving 13 players left. The Devils are currently scheduled to play their first game back on Tuesday, but that still seems unlikely. However, Thursday’s game against the Boston Bruins seems more and more attainable.

The Devils have been waiting for weeks to finally get things going again. They haven’t had a practice in quite a while. There are new pieces that should be available when they return like Vatanen and Hischier. Hopefully, the whole roster is back when the Devils are, but with so many players on the COVID-19 protocol, it’s likely at least some actually got the virus and weren’t just close contacts.

The big hope here is nobody is actually dealing long-term effects of the virus. Most young people who get it come out of it fine, but every so often it does lasting damage. There are no reports of that so far, so we can only hope for the best.

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Devils fans really needed some good news after weeks of canceled games. The interest in the season came to an abrupt halt. After some very exciting games against Buffalo, the momentum froze. Now, the Devils have to get back going.

The good news is teams who did this before faired well. The Dallas Stars had to start the season late, but they won their first four games out of the gate. (Let’s ignore their 1-3-3 record since.) This Devils team can bounce back. Hopefully, more good news comes for the Devils on Sunday. The Avalanche have three players on the protocol list and they are still playing. The Devils should probably shoot to get to that number before Thursday to keep that Bruins game on the schedule. Unless for some reason 10 players are coming off, it just seems like such a longshot to play the Rangers on Tuesday.

Editor’s update: Multiple reporters, including Corey Masisak of The Athletic, say the Devils will be returning to practice on Monday. More good news!