Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said that one player on his team has tested positive for COVID-19, but he remains confident that his team will return to play next week.
The NHL postponed four Montreal games this week after forwards Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were added to the league's COVID protocol list on Monday.
"There was one player where the test came back positive and there was close contact so the league didn't want to take any chances," Bergevin said Thursday on a video call. "Then we re-tested again and it came back (positive) again.
"But I can tell you that so far it hasn't spread so if we keep the same pace until Monday afternoon we should be OK to come back."
Bergevin said the COVID case is a variant of concern.
The postponements were the first in the Canadian-based North Division this season.
Bergevin said he couldn't comment on whether any staff members in the organization were affected. He was also asked about the health of the affected player during the 35-minute availability with reporters.
"As far as we know today, there is no issue," he said.
Montreal's games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday against the Edmonton Oilers were postponed along with Sunday's game against the Ottawa Senators.
The decision to postpone was made by medical groups from the league, the NHL Players' Association and the Canadiens.
The Canadiens are hoping to re-open their facilities for practice on Monday. The team's next scheduled game is Tuesday in Ottawa.
"All I can tell you is that all the precautions have been taken by the league, the PA, and the Montreal Canadiens for the safety of our players," Bergevin said.
The Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets are tied for first place in the North with 42 points. The Canadiens are five points behind.
"In the North Division it was pretty smooth until Monday and again if we really look at it, it's one player that probably as we speak today was affected," Bergevin said. "So one player out of the whole division caused a shutdown, so that unfortunately happened to us."
Earlier this season, the start time for a game between Montreal and Edmonton on Feb. 11 was pushed back an hour after Edmonton forward Jesse Puljujarvi was placed on the protocol list.
He was deemed eligible to resume team activities two days later.
There have been 41 games postponed due to protocol in the NHL this season. The pandemic-shortened campaign began Jan. 13.
The league has yet to announce make-up dates for games that were postponed this week.
"It's something that we'll have to deal with," Bergevin said of the compact schedule. "It's not ideal but we'll make the best of it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.