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Players frustrated as NHL postpones Canucks, Senators games due to capacity limits

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat says he and his teammates simply want to get back to playing hockey.

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat says he and his teammates simply want to get back to playing hockey. 

The Canucks had yet another game pushed back indefinitely on Friday when the NHL announced it was postponing Saturday's matchup with the Ottawa Senators in Vancouver due to ongoing attendance restrictions. The league also postponed a tilt between the Senators and Jets in Winnipeg originally set for Jan. 15. 

“We were obviously looking forward to playing and with the game getting cancelled and us being off for a long time, we want to play hockey," Horvat said. "We feel like we have a pretty good thing going right now and it just keeps getting delayed, which is frustrating. But we can’t let this discourage us. We’ve just got to keep practising, keep our legs under us and get ready for (next week's) road trip.”

Current health orders in B.C. limit attendance at indoor sports events to 50 per cent capacity.

The NHL says the games will be rescheduled for dates later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted.

Neither the Canucks (16-15-3) nor the Sens (9-18-2) have played since Jan. 1, and Vancouver hasn't hosted a game since Dec. 14 when they edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3. 

"It sucks, to be honest," said Vancouver left-winger Tanner Pearson. "Practise all week and then try to gear up for a game again and then it gets postponed. And now we have, what, another five days until our next one. It's not ideal but I guess it's the way things are going right now." 

The Canucks have had seven games postponed since the middle of December and won't play again until Tuesday when they kick off a five-game road trip against the Florida Panthers. 

After experiencing an outbreak that saw 21 players and four coaches test positive for coronavirus last season, Vancouver has had several players enter the league's COVID-19 protocol in recent weeks. 

The team added right-winger Alex Chiasson to the list Friday after he was held out of Thursday's practice due to a positive test result. 

Five other Canucks were in the league's protocol Thursday, including forwards Brock Boeser and Phillip Di Giuseppe (Dec. 29), Justin Dowling (Dec. 30), Jason Dickinson (Jan. 1) and Elias Pettersson (Jan. 5).

Head coach Bruce Boudreau was hopeful many would be able to return before the team embarks on its gruelling road swing. 

The COVID-19 situation has been difficult to navigate, Horvat said. 

"Just when you think things are getting back to normal, things like this happen. It is frustrating," he said. 

"Not only do we have to worry about winning hockey games and getting pumped up to play, but we’ve got to worry about testing positive the next day or getting home from a road trip or whether we’re going to get left behind. There’s just so many things that we have to worry about other than just going and playing hockey.”

While the Canucks aren't happy with the current delay, they'll "muddle through" like every other team, Boudreau said.

"Somehow, somewhere, they’re all going to catch up to you," he said.  

“We’re all impatient and we’d sure all like to know what the schedule’s going to look like in February or beyond. But we just wait and see. And hopefully it’s not too difficult.”

The Senators, meanwhile, remain in Ottawa during what should have been a five-game western road trip.

“To be blatantly honest, it’s like August when you’re waiting for the action to come and you push hard and you’re excited and then you realize you’re still three or four days away from camp opening," said head coach D.J. Smith. "It’s been really strange. But all you can do is get ready for the next game.”

Ottawa has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that saw nine players and an assistant coach placed in the league's protocol, and forced Thursday's game against the Kraken in Seattle to be pushed back indefinitely. 

Defencemen Thomas Chabot and Dillon Heatherington, left-winger Zach Sanford, centre Chris Tierney and assistant coach Bob Jones were all removed from protocol Friday. 

The Senators are scheduled to face the Oilers in Edmonton on Monday and visit the Flames in Calgary on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2022. 

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press