The Ottawa Senators landed in Boston Monday minus four players and a staff member for their Tuesday evening tilt at TD Garden.
Forward Austin Watson was added Covid-19 Protocol Friday. While d-man Nick Holden and associate coach Jack Capuano were added Sunday by the team. Then Monday morning, the Senators announced forwards Connor Brown and newly-acquired Dylan Gambrell also entered Covid-19 Protocol, thus not making the trip to Beantown.
It was later learned Brown and Gambrell are awaiting a subsequent test result Tuesday and may be able to suit up Thursday versus Los Angeles if they render negative tests.
It’s a tough way to end a 384-game ironman streak for Brown.
Unfortunately. Covid-19 is just another obstacle to overcome for a team that’s 0-3-1 in their past four games.
Senators head coach D.J. Smith intimated via Zoom Monday, no one is going to feel sorry his club.
“I’m sure guys are worried about their health. This isn’t something anyone wants. It’s not something you can play with. Sports has to be second when it comes to your health in something like this. So, the guys seemed a little bit down today – obviously losing players and guys out with injuries and we haven’t been winning. That’s typical, but no one feels sorry for anybody. We’ll pick ourselves up,” said Smith.
“We’ll have a good morning skate tomorrow morning. And we’ll get ourselves going. We have to play 60 full minutes whether we have a few guys out or not. Our schedule has been filled with real good teams. There’s a lot of games left, and I suspect this is going to pull us closer together.”
Coincidentally, the current bout of Covid-19 running through the Senators’ room was detected only a few days after returning from their first road trip to the United States since March 12, 2020, the day the 2019-20 regular season came to a halt.
Days later the club announced six players, one staff member plus their radio colour analyst, Gord Wilson contacted the illness.
With four players out of their lineup, changes will be made – not to mention one behind the bench. Senators eye-in-the-sky Bob Jones will likely fill in for Capuano and coach the defense. Jones is a 22-year coaching veteran mainly in the Ontario Hockey Leagure whose specialty is guiding the d-corps.
In addition to Watson, right wing Tyler Ennis also missed the Senators’ previous game Saturday, a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a viral infection.
Smith told Full Press Hockey, “Outside of Covid, we’ve had a viral thing going through our room. A lot of guys have been under the weather. Some were able to play the last couple of games, some couldn’t. Tyler couldn’t. He does not have Covid at this point. We have to get healthy and get by this – get our lives back.”
The good news for Ennis is he’s recovered enough to play Tuesday.
Parker Kelly who suited up in place of Watson Saturday, recorded his first NHL assist in that game, was one of the club’s emergency recalls. Kelly along with Andrew Aggozino, Erik Brannstrom, Scott Sabourin and Egor Sokolov traveled from Cleveland via car service, leaving late Friday evening to be in attendance the following afternoon, in case the team received additional positive cases.
Brannstrom, Sabourin and Sokolov were recalled Monday.
Barring test results Tuesday morning, only one player, Egor Sokolov will enter the lineup due to Covid-related reasons.
For Sokolov, it’ll be an opportunity to make his NHL regular-season debut. The 20-year old forward led the Belleville Senators in goals (15) and points (25) in 35 games last season, his first as a pro. In nine games this season, the right wing has posted six points (two goals, four assists).
Though Sokolov requires more time to develop his game, an unfortunate situation gives the organization a chance to see how close the 61st selection in 2020 Entry Draft is to remaining with the parent club full-time.
The Senators’ bench boss explained, “He (Sokolov) started really good. He has power. He has the ability to get on the forecheck. He’s big and strong and can score goals. But as training camp went on, he looked a little fatigued and the NHL was a little much. It’s much like Drake Batherson at the same age. That’s why they go back to the American Hockey League, and when they’re ready, they come back up. This is kind of a forced one, but let’s see where he’s at. Maybe it’s only one, two, three games, but he’s a guy that can score and he’s going to be here for a long time. We want to take our time with him and when he gets here we want to make sure it’s right. But in this situation. we need him now.”
It’s not currently known whom Erik Brannstrom is replacing among Senators blue-liners in Boston. The team is obviously minus Holden. However, they still have seven defensemen including the young Swede.
Speculation is Brannstrom will replace Victor Mete in the lineup and play on the left side.
The 22-year old was a victim of circumstance coming out of training camp. With seven D possessing one-way contracts and Brannstrom not requiring waivers to be assigned to the AHL Senators, he was dispatched to Belleville.
“Going down there was just for him getting reps. His thing is; he has to show he can do it in the National Hockey League.. We knew he was going to get an opportunity anyways at some point. He was the one guy who didn’t require waivers. Let’s hope he gets an opportunity here and plays the way he can,” Smith relayed via Zoom.
With the Senators back end being inconsistent, especially over the past several games, Brannstrom is being given an opportunity to become a permanent resident on the team’s blue line.
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