With training camps back open, one former Stanley Cup-winning goaltender was notably absent from practice. Elsewhere, the interim tag was removed from one of the coaches competing in the qualifying round, and a team may be dealing with significant virus exposure. Here are the latest headlines as the NHL prepares to join other sports returning to action.
Crawford Absent From Practice
The Chicago Blackhawks opened up camp and practiced for the first time since the season was suspended in March, but did it without goaltender Corey Crawford. Crawford was “unfit to play or to participate,” according to head coach Jeremy Colliton, leaving some to wonder what his availability will be for games.
The language used by Colliton was vague for a reason, as the league has been very strict about teams discussing why players are missing. So whether it’s a positive coronavirus test, injury, or other reason that’s keeping Crawford away from practice, expect Chicago to stay silent on the matter.
The 35-year-old Crawford went 16-20-3 in 2020 with a 2.77 GAA and .917 save percentage. The three-time Stanley Cup champion, twice as the starter, has played more career playoff games (87) than the rest of the Blackhawks goalie group has NHL games (84).
Should Crawford not be ready to play, Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Matt Tomkins will get extra looks in net.
Wild Remove Evason’s Interim Tag
The Wild made the decision on Monday to remove the interim tag from coach Dean Evason, making him the permanent head coach. They also inked him to an extension through the 2021-22 season.
“I am very excited to announce that Dean Evason is our full-time head coach,” Minnesota GM Bill Guerin said in a statement. “Dean has done a fantastic job as our interim head coach and deserves this opportunity. I look forward to watching our team under his leadership going forward.”
Evason, 55, took over on Feb. 14 after Bruce Boudreau was fired and led Minnesota to an 8-4 record in 12 games. Before being named interim coach, Evason had been an assistant with the Wild starting at the beginning of last year, the head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals for six seasons, and another seven seasons as a Washington Capitals assistant.
Evason and the Wild will face the Canucks in a best-of-five qualifying round series once games resume on Aug. 1.
Penguins Sideline Nine Players
With camp opening up on Monday, the Penguins are “voluntarily sidelining” nine players on their roster. The decision was made after an individual tested positive for the coronavirus, which led to potential secondary exposure.
“The team learned of the possible secondary exposure on Sunday, July 12,” the Penguins announced in a statement on Monday. “The decision to isolate this group of players was made out of an abundance of caution in an effort to avoid exposure to anyone else within the organization. The nine players will not participate until they are deemed safe in accordance with NHL protocol and further test results.”
While those players continue waiting to return to the ice, Pittsburgh’s remaining camp roster will begin preparation for the qualifying round. The Penguins will face the Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-five series in Toronto.