NHL Roundup: Less than 5 player not vaccinated; Backstrom out for Caps; Ovechkin likely; MacKinnon has COVID; and more

Mar 19, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren (55) checks Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) while chasing the puck in front of Rangers center Colin Blackwell (43) in the second period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The puck will drop on the 2021-22 NHL season Tuesday night with more than 99 percent of players vaccinated against COVID-19, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. This exceeds the league’s initial expectation of 98 percent.

Daly told USA Today in an interview that “probably less than five” of the league’s roughly 700 players opted not to receive the vaccine heading into the season.

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NHL announces 99% vaccination rate

“It’s a pretty tremendous result, for sure,” Daly said Monday.

Daly estimated that the number of teams that will begin the season fully vaxxed to be in “the high 20s, low 30s.” Coaches and staff are required to be vaxxed.

“It gives us the best chance not to have disruptions and execute a full 82-game season with 32 healthy teams,” Daly told USA Today. “Everybody wants to get back to normal and getting the vaccine is a good step toward making that happen.”

Capitals place Backstrom on LTIR; Ovechkin likely for opener

The Washington Capitals placed forward Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injured reserve Tuesday.

The move means Backstrom will be required to miss at least 10 games.

Backstrom, 33, has not participated in training camp while continuing to rehabilitate his left hip. He had arthroscopic surgery on it back in 2015 and previously said his current situation is due to wear and tear.

Alex Ovechkin was injured in preseason action but skated today at practice. It’s a good sign he could play in tomorrow’s season opener against the New York Rangers.

“That’s a good sign,” Laviolette said. “We’ll get an update and an evaluation once he gets off the ice. Certainly a positive sign that he’s out there. We’ll do what’s best for the player and make sure that they’re healthy and we won’t put them in any situations where they might be jeopardized out there.”

MacKinnon to miss season opener

Nathan MacKinnon COVID
Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche star forward Nathan MacKinnon tested positive for COVID-19, general manager Joe Sakic announced Tuesday.

Per Sakic, MacKinnon is asymptomatic and will miss at least the Avalanche’s season-opening game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday in Denver.

“Hopefully he’ll be able to test out and get ready. We’re hoping for Saturday (against the visiting St. Louis Blues),” Sakic said, per The Athletic.

MacKinnon, 26, was fourth in the NHL last season with a career-high 1.35 points per game, recording 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) in 48 games to lead Colorado to the Presidents’ Trophy.

Habs sign Nick Suzuki to 8 year deal

The Montreal Canadiens announced an eight-year extension with forward Nick Suzuki on Tuesday worth $63 million.

The deal will pay him an average annual salary of $7.875 million.

In my first interview when I got traded, I said I wanted to prove Marc right for wanting me as part of the deal,” Suzuki said today. “And I think I’ve just tried to do that as long as I’ve been here.”

The former first-round pick tallied 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) for the Habs last season. He has 82 points (28 goals, 54 assists) in his first two pro seasons in Montreal after the Vegas Golden Knights selected him No. 13 overall in the 2017 draft.

“We are very happy to secure Nick’s services for the next eight seasons,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement.

Suzuki, 22, was acquired by the Canadiens along with Tomas Tatar and a 2019 second-round pick in return for Max Pacioretty in September 2018.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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