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Canucks can return to play April 16; NHL regular season extends to May 16

Return to practice delayed at least one more day after COVID-19 pause

by Mike Battaglino / Staff Writer

The Vancouver Canucks will return to play on April 16, and the NHL regular season has been extended to May 16, the NHL announced Saturday.

The Canucks, who have not played since March 24 with eight games postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team, can't return to practice until Monday at the earliest. Their practice facility was expected to reopen Sunday, but plans were changed out of caution because forward Jay Beagle was placed in COVID-19 protocol on Sunday. Beagle is injured and hasn't played since March 13..

Vancouver will return to play the Edmonton Oilers on Friday; that game was originally scheduled for May 4.

Games at Edmonton on Monday and Wednesday were rescheduled.

The NHL regular season had previously been extended to May 11; it originally was to end May 8.

The start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has not been determined.

"The NHL will continue to assess the progression of the regular season before announcing definitive dates for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs," the League said in a statement. "With the newly revised end date for the regular season for the North Division, it is possible that the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the East, Central and West Divisions could open a few days earlier than the North Division."

The Canucks had 22 players and four staff members test positive for a variant of the coronavirus. On Friday, they said their health was improving and they expected to complete the 56-game NHL regular season. Nineteen players remain on the COVID protocol list.

General manager Jim Benning said he thinks the Canucks will have the majority of their players back when they return to play, "outside of two or three guys." 

Vancouver (16-18-3) has 19 games remaining and was tied with the Calgary Flames for fifth in the seven-team Scotia North Division, eight points behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens, who also had 19 games remaining. The top four teams will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Benning said no one with the Canucks has said he doesn't want to finish the season.

"Once we're healthy and we're ready to play, I expect our players are going to be competitive here down the stretch," Benning said. "We've got a hard-working group, a team that has a lot of pride. So, our schedule will be hard, we're going to have a lot of games in a short period of time, but we'll just see how we feel and how we come out of this and see where it goes."

There have been 54 games postponed since the NHL season began Jan. 13, 49 because of COVID-19 protocol. Five games have been postponed because of weather-related issues.

The following changes were made to the Scotia North Division schedule: 

April 21: Calgary at Vancouver (moved from March 31)

April 29: Vancouver at Toronto (April 30)

May 3: Vancouver at Calgary (April 10)

May 4: Vancouver at Edmonton (April 3)

May 8: Vancouver at Edmonton (April 12)

May 9: Ottawa at Calgary (April 20)

May 10: Vancouver at Winnipeg (April 4)

May 11: Vancouver at Winnipeg (April 6)

May 12: Toronto at Ottawa (May 10)

May 13: Vancouver at Edmonton (April 14)

May 15: Calgary at Vancouver (May 8)

May 16: Vancouver at Calgary (April 8) columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika contributed to this report

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