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Stars' opening games against Panthers postponed because of COVID-19

Dallas shuts down facilities after positive tests; no makeup dates announced @NHLdotcom

The Dallas Stars' first two games of this season, at the Florida Panthers, have been postponed after six players and two staff members recently tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Stars were scheduled to play the Panthers on Jan. 14 and 15 in the opening games for each team. Dallas is scheduled to play at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 17 and 19. The NHL said Friday that the Stars facilities were closed and Dallas likely would not play earlier than Jan. 19.

"In light of the National Hockey League's announcement regarding the closure of the Dallas Stars' training facility, the Dallas Stars at Florida Panthers games scheduled for Jan. 14 and 15 will be postponed," the Panthers said in a statement. "The NHL will announce the dates and times on which the games will be played once the schedule is revised.

"The safety of our fans, players, personnel, and the community are, and will remain, our top priority, and therefore we, along with the Dallas Stars organization, will continue to follow all recommended protocols and guidelines as we observe this postponement." 

Dallas canceled practice Friday before the NHL announced the positive tests. The Stars were off Thursday and last practiced Wednesday.

"Those individuals are self-isolating and following CDC and League protocols," the NHL said in a statement. "As a result of the positive tests, and as an appropriate precaution, the team's training facilities have been closed, effective immediately, and will remain closed for several days while further daily testing and contact tracing is conducted. 

"The Stars organization has, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of its players, staff and community at large as set by the NHL, local, state and national agencies," the NHL said. 

Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday that coaches and players need to be ready to adapt to changes.

"Flexibility, being nimble and adjusting to the regular changing of the scheduling, whether it's meetings, inside, outside, what room, who's going out there for practices, two groups, it's something we've got to look at that's different," Quenneville said. "It's a different type of setup, and I think that just being adapting and being cooperative as best you can and compliant, and expect change."

Also on Friday, 19 players did not practice for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who said an unspecified number of players were sidelined "out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols." Eighteen of the 19 players returned to practice Saturday.

Columbus is scheduled to open its season at the Nashville Predators on Jan. 14. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said he is not sure if that game will be affected. 

"I have no idea what the doctors do, how the whole protocol works, what they decide," Tortorella said. "And I'm not even going to worry about it. Whatever comes our way each day, we're going to present ourselves and try to get the best work in we can."

The Pittsburgh Penguins canceled practices and a scrimmage scheduled for Saturday "out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19." columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika and staff writer Amalie Benjamin contributed to this report

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