Kings announce five players ‘unfit to participate’ in camp scrimmage
The Kings announced Saturday that five players were “unfit to participate” in a training camp intrasquad scrimmage, creating sudden roster questions with the start of the regular season less than a week away.
The team did not disclose any further information about the players’ status.
“The players that didn’t play today were deemed unfit to play,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re gonna have to be prepared for that throughout the season, whether it’s now, three months from now, four months from now. That can pop up at any time.”
The Kings’ 56-game schedule begins at home Thursday against the Minnesota Wild. Since the start of Kings training camp Dec. 31, Saturday marked the first time any of their players missed a practice.
“We were aware of a few of them yesterday and another one or two this morning,” McLellan said.
McLellan wasn’t sure when the missing players might be able to return and reiterated the “unfit to play” line when asked directly whether their absence was related to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He expects Thursday’s season opener to go ahead as scheduled.
“We’re ready to go, to move players around,” McLellan said. “We expect to have these bumps in the road as we go forward. There’s nothing that’s going to be normal about this season, so we have to be ready to roll.”
Other NHL teams have dealt with player absences over the last week as the league prepares to begin a 56-game season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dallas Stars were forced to delay their season opener after the league announced Friday that six players and two staff members had tested positive for the virus.
The Kings open the NHL season on Jan. 14 against the Minnesota Wild. Midway through training camp, the roster has some certainties, but also plenty of questions.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had 19 players miss practice Friday “out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols,” according to a team statement.
The Pittsburgh Penguins elected to cancel a practice Saturday because of a possible COVID-19 exposure.
For the Kings, Vilardi, MacDermid, Walker and Petersen were all expected to be in their opening night lineup.
Vilardi, the No. 11 overall draft pick in 2017, had been playing center on the team’s third line while preparing for his first full NHL season. MacDermid and Walker were playing together on the team’s No. 3 defensemen pairing. Petersen had been sharing goaltending duties with Jonathan Quick.
Trevor Zegras, taken by the Ducks in 2019, was selected the tournament MVP after the U.S. beat Canada 2-0 at the world junior hockey championship.
McLellan said it was too soon to know how the team’s final roster decisions might now be impacted leading up to Tuesday’s deadline to trim the active roster to 23 players and name a four- to six-player taxi squad.
“The good news is a lot of the players that are involved in training camp have now been in the organization for a while,” McLellan said. “They have been playing the system that we want to put in place … so we should be able to plug players in. They should understand why and how we’re doing things. They should be champing at the bit to get that opportunity.”
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