The Wild game against Carolina, scheduled for Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center, was postponed after the Hurricanes added to a growing list of NHLers affected by COVID-19.
Four Carolina players tested positive after two others on the team entered the league's COVID protocols on Monday. Forwards Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis had to stay behind in Vancouver where the Hurricanes played on Sunday and are quarantining after testing positive.
Former Wild defenseman Ian Cole and forwards Steven Lorentz, Jordan Staal and Andrei Svechnikov were the latest Carolina players sidelined and will remain in Minnesota for the time being. The team was set to return two players from the COVID protocols, defensemen Tony DeAngelo and Brett Pesce, after both missed seven games.
"Unfortunately, this is the world that we live in," Cole said Tuesday during a Zoom call with reporters before it was revealed he tested positive. "We gotta be careful with it. We don't want it to spread to the whole team. We don't want to get shut down and have to tack on games at the end of the season leading into the playoffs. That's probably worst-case scenario."
St. Paul was the last stop on a five-game road trip for the Hurricanes.
"That's probably the issue," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said before the game vs. the Wild was called off. "I'm no expert obviously, but we go on long trips. All of a sudden, it pops up. You're on the plane stuck together for five, six hours at a time. I think this is where this stuff probably happens."
Like the Wild, the Hurricanes are vaccinated. The NHL is believed to have only one unvaccinated player, Detroit's Tyler Bertuzzi.
Last season, the Wild went on hiatus for almost two weeks after a COVID-19 outbreak reached more than half the roster.
Three Wild players have entered the COVID protocols this season: Forwards Frederick Gaudreau, Rem Pitlick and Mats Zuccarello. Gaudreau returned from his absence on Sunday, playing at Vegas after sitting out six games. The Wild also had assistant Darby Hendrickson, goaltending coach Frederic Chabot, video coach T.J. Jindra and General Manager Bill Guerin in the protocols earlier this season.
"We're just used to playing every other day and being with our teammates every day and having a lot of fun," Gaudreau said on Tuesday morning. "That's tough to get out of that rhythm."
A makeup date for Tuesday's game hasn't been announced.
That was the ninth game postponed by the NHL since the season started, with the league recently shuttering Calgary through at least Thursday after six players went into the protocols.
Before that, the New York Islanders and Ottawa were shut down and numerous other teams placed players in the protocols on Tuesday.
Boston, Colorado, Edmonton, Florida, Philadelphia, the Islanders and Vancouver joined Carolina in also having at least one player sidelined. The Flames had three more go on their COVID list.
Even before this uptick, the pandemic loomed over the NHL since participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics has come into question with a positive test in China potentially resulting in a quarantine of three to five weeks.
Already, Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner announced he won't represent Sweden at the Olympics, citing the uncertainty surrounding a positive test as a "risk."
USA Hockey said on Tuesday it's still working to finalize the quarantine rules. The NHL has until Jan. 10 to withdraw from the Olympics without a financial penalty but has carved out a Feb. 3-22 break that includes the All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
In the meantime, COVID-19 has become an issue for the league's current schedule.
"Guys are tested all the time," Brind'Amour said. "We're masking up. But it is what it is right now. Everybody's getting this thing."