Leafs’ Matthews returns negative test, could face McDavid, Oilers on Wednesday

January 4, 2022
Leafs' Matthews returns negative test, could face McDavid, Oilers on Wednesday
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The latest sports news:

  • Raptors duo to sit out Tuesday against Spurs
  • Blue Jackets lose D-man Werenski to COVID-19 protocol
  • Curling Canada seeks new date, site for U18 curling nationals

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews returned a negative result for COVID-19 on a PCR test one day after a rapid test came back positive.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe says the team is awaiting further results, but Matthews has not been ruled out of Wednesday’s game against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

The 24-year-old star missed a second straight practice from precautionary reasons Tuesday. He was held out of Monday’s on-ice after his positive result on a rapid antigen test

Assistant coach Dean Chenowyth, who also tested positive on Monday, had his result confirmed by a PCR test Tuesday.

Monday’s positive tests came at the tail end of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Leafs that saw 14 players and seven staff members placed in the NHL’s coronavirus protocol at its height. Those 21 people had cleared protocol as of Monday.

WATCH | Virus wreaks havoc on NHL schedule:

NHL playing schedule left in disarray by COVID-19

More than 90 NHL games to date have been postponed due to COVID-19, as more players — including Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews — test positive. 2:12

Matthews is coming off an outstanding December that saw him named the NHL’s first star of the month after putting up 10 goals and four assists in seven games.

The reigning Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy winner tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020 at home in Arizona while the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the pandemic.

Raptors’ Watanabe, Mykhailiuk sidelined

The Raptors announced Yuta Watanabe and Svi Mykhailiuk have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will not be available for Toronto’s game Tuesday night against visiting San Antonio.

The Raptors have been dealing with a significant number of COVID-19 cases over the past weeks.

They had 10 players in the NBA’s protocol, including their entire starting lineup, when they suffered a Dec. 26 loss at Cleveland. The Raptors were forced to field an eight-man roster featuring four hardship signees.

However, Toronto had most of its players available for its previous two games, both wins.

Blue Jackets’ Zach Werenski in protocol

The Columbus Blue Jackets placed defenceman Zach Werenski in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

The team also added goaltenders Jean-Francois Berube and Cam Johnson to the taxi squad prior to Tuesday night’s game against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.

Werenski, 24, leads Columbus blue-liners with 20 points on six goals and 14 assists in 30 games this season. He leads the team in time on ice, averaging 26 minutes 34 seconds per game.

Werenski has 71 goals209 points (71 goals, 138 assists) in 365 games since the Blue Jackets drafted him with the No. 8 overall pick in 2015.

Berube, 30, posted a 9-10-4 record with a 3.30 goals-against average and .898 save percentage in 34 career NHL games with Chicago and New York Islanders from 2015-18.

Johnson, 27, signed a one-year, two-way contract extension with the Blue Jackets on July 16, 2021 but has never appeared in an NHL contest.

Junior hockey games postponed in Western Canada

The Western Hockey League has postponed five games after suspending team activities for the Edmonton Oil Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors and Red Deer Rebels.

The league said in a news release teams have had multiple players and staff added to the WHL COVID-19 protocol list due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive for COVID-19.

The Warriors’ games Friday at Lethbridge and Saturday at Medicine Hat have been postponed, as have the Oil Kings’ games Friday at Red Deer and Sunday at Medicine Hat and Red Deer’s home contest Saturday against Lethbridge.

The postponements are in addition to three games in early January that the WHL pushed back because of capacity limits in Manitoba. Moose Jaw’s game Monday in Winnipeg was postponed, along Calgary’s games this Friday in Brandon and Saturday in Winnipeg.

U18 curling nationals postponed

Curling Canada has been forced to explore alternate dates and a new location for the under-18 championships due to the ongoing uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Feb. 14-20 event was scheduled for Timmins, Ont., where there is no other ice availability for the balance of the season.

However, the city will remain host of the 2023 competition in February of that year.

“We understand these are difficult circumstances for Curling Canada, so we were fully supportive of the decision,” Steve Meunier, co-chair with Tony Chilton of the Timmins host committee, said in a news release. “We now can hit the pause button and start preparing for the 2023 event and make sure that every player, coach and family member has an amazing experience in Timmins.”

Curling Canada continues to consult with local, regional and national health authorities about the rest of this season’s championship events.

“We understand the importance of the Under-18 championships and how crucial this event is for developing our next generation of athletes,” said Katherine Henderson, chief executive officer of Curling Canada. “We’re grateful to the host committee in Timmins for their understanding, and we will continue to work on giving our Under-18 athletes an opportunity to show their talent this year.”

Also Tuesday, Curling Canada confirmed the inaugural Under-23 Lethbridge Classic, scheduled for March in Alberta, will be cancelled.

Details for an Under-25 Invitational event slated for September will be released later this season.

The Under-15 RockFest Regional events will be held virtually instead of in-person. Details will be released later in January on how kids can compete using Curling Canada’s new singles curling app in their home centre.

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