With COVID, Lightning Learned to “Expect the Unexpected”

TAMPA – During the first 11 weeks of the season, the Lightning dodged COVID-19.

While other organizations in the league have been forced to postpone games and teams shut down operations amid outbreaks, the Lightning has not been affected. They shared the ice with teams who, days later, lost players due to positive tests.

But when the coronavirus hit the Lightning, it spread quickly. Over the past three weeks, nine players and three coaches have entered league protocol, creating day-to-day – and sometimes hour-to-hour – uncertainty over who would be available to play on the ice.

“I guess we are expecting the unexpected,” said forward Alex Killorn. “Every day we come in knowing that someone might get shot, and mentally you just have to figure that out knowing that the guys who come in in the morning might not be the guys who are going to play.

“We have to integrate these games; we have to play them. So it’s just a matter of finding a way to win through these tough times.

Lightning assistant coaches discovered 2.5 hours before the start of the Dec. 21 game in Las Vegas that coach Jon Cooper had tested positive. The Lightning returned from the holiday break on Dec. 26 to a practice where four players were missing, including the two goaltenders.

Forward Anthony Cirelli was removed from a team meeting because he tested positive, and forward Ross Colton was told he had to follow protocol after leaving the ice for morning practice before Tuesday’s game in Columbus.

Even when the players were able to come back, it was not transparent. Rookie forward Taylor Raddysh was shut out on Monday. He did it for practice that day, but not his gear bag.

“There was just a lot of disruption,” Cooper said. “We had a multitude of players. Different guys are playing games, guys are playing their first games. You don’t know who’s playing hours before the game. “

The revolving door of the Lightning roster coincided with their most uneven game of the season. They have gone winless in three straight games and were outscored by a 17-6 aggregate in an unbalanced loss to the Panthers and two losses to the Rangers from Dec.30 to Jan.30. 2.

The Lightning were eager to get goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy back from the COVID protocol, but it took him a few more days to test and join the team. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Adding to the frustration, players’ feedback didn’t depend on whether they felt sick – they reported little to no symptoms – but on their daily test results.

On December 29, the NHL shortened its period of mandatory isolation in the United States after testing positive. Players, coaches and staff who test positive may return after five days if symptoms have gone away or resolve with negative test results.

Anyone participating in the protocol can be tested daily from the day after infection. Two negative laboratory PCR tests carried out 24 hours apart, provided a player is asymptomatic or his symptoms have resolved, would allow him to be cleared before the sixth day.

On the sixth day, tests are performed daily to produce either a negative laboratory PCR test or having a cycle cut-off (CT) value greater than 30, or two negative rapid point-of-care tests collected more than two hours away. interval. People must also be authorized by the team doctor.

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The CT value is essential because PCR tests can find traces of the virus weeks and months after infection. The CT value is a marker of how much or how little viral genetic material can be detected; The higher the number the better. So even if a virus is detected in a PCR test, if it exceeds a certain CT value, an individual is not considered infectious.

“I haven’t had any symptoms,” Cirelli said. “I felt pretty good throughout the week and tested every day just to increase that number and see where it is.”

Most of the Lightning players and coaches returned within five days. Goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy returned after seven days in protocol, and assistant coach Rob Zettler took eight days to test.

“You’re just anxious,” Zettler said. “When you wake up in the morning and feel good, you feel normal, you feel like you can exercise, you feel like you can just go out and have a normal day… you can’t because your test shows you can’t. It is obviously frustrating.

“And I had three or four days where I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to go here,’ and I just couldn’t because I didn’t do a test.”

The Lightning are a fully vaccinated team and many players received booster shots when the team made them available earlier in the season. Now, those who have returned from the protocol do not have to be tested for the next 90 days.

Prior to Saturday night’s game against the Bruins at Arena Amalie, 11 of the 12 players who entered protocol were back. Colton was the only one not cleared.

The Lightning are hoping their coronavirus issues are mostly behind them.

“I don’t worry about testing anymore, so that’s a good thing,” said defender Mikhail Sergachev, who followed protocol. “It sucks that this is the second year in a row that we have to do the same things and postpone the games and not play the games and the guys have to sit down even though everyone has been vaccinated three times already.

“I can’t really judge what the NHL thinks, but everyone is fed up. “

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at [email protected]. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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How to get tested

Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find public and free COVID-19 test sites in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Florida: The Ministry of Health has a website which lists the test sites in the state. Some information may be out of date.

United States: The Department of Health and Social Services has a website who can help you find a test site.

• • •

How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are administered at physician’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores, and public vaccination sites. Many allow you to book online appointments. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit vaccins.gov to find vaccination sites in your postal code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Immunization Assistance Hotline.

Call: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

ATS: 888-720-7489

Information and access line for people with disabilities: Call 888-677-1199 or email [email protected]

• • •

CHILDREN AND VACCINES: Do you have questions about your child’s immunization? Here are some answers.

REINFORCEMENT PLANS: Don’t know which COVID booster to get? This guide will help you.

IMPROVEMENT QUESTIONS: Are there any side effects? Why do I need it? Here are the answers to your questions.

PROTECTING SENIORS: Here’s how older people can stay safe from the virus.

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Robert M. Larson