Miller on Canucks return to action: 'I don't really feel ready at all, to be honest'
The National Hockey League, NHL Players' Association and Canucks medical will be involved in determining whether the Vancouver Canucks are healthy enough to play on Friday, according to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger.
NHL, NHLPA and Canucks medical will be involved in determining whether the Canucks are healthy enough to play on Friday. A decision will be based on the doctors evaluations of the players tomorrow. https://t.co/Q58qQd6VLM— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 15, 2021
Dreger adds a decision will be made based on doctors' evaluations of the players on Thursday.
The Athletic's Thomas Drance reports Canucks players and the NHLPA held a Zoom conference Wednesday evening.
#Canucks players and the NHLPA held a Zoom teleconference on Wednesday evening, I'm told.— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) April 15, 2021
At this point the NHL, the Canucks and the Oilers expect Friday's game to be played, but I get the sense that tomorrow could be interesting.
This comes after Canucks forward J.T. Miller candidly spoke to reporters Wednesday afternoon and said the Canucks are still dealing with the fallout of a COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined the team since late March. As things currently stand, Vancouver is scheduled to resume their season Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite most of the team clearing COVID-19 protocols, Miller called what the team is being asked to do going forward unsafe.
“I don’t feel ready if I’m being honest... It's kind of crazy. I know everyone has a job to do but to expect our entire team to be ready to play in one practice and a pre-game skate is a bit hard to comprehend,” Miller said.
“To be brutally honest, we're going to need more time than this to come back and play hockey. Even the guys that didn't get it aren't ready."
Since March 30, the Canucks have had 22 players and four staff members test positive. The team has also said a variant of the virus has been showing up in positive cases.
When their season resumes on Friday, Vancouver will be scheduled to play 19 games in 30 days, including six sets of back-to-backs.
With the Canucks (16-18-3) currently in sixth place in the North Division, they may have a bit of an uphill climb to reach the playoffs. But Miller says that isn’t top of mind right now anyway.
“I hope people don’t take this the wrong way, I’m a super competitive guy... but this isn’t about hockey for our team. This is about the health and safety of our players, their family and their children. This isn’t about making the playoffs.”
"What we're being asked to do is not going to be too safe, if you're asking me."
Miller did not test positive for COVID-19, but indicated it’s going to be hard for him to get up to speed considering the layoff, let alone for his teammates who did test positive for the virus.
"It's frustrating, we try to talk about our number one priority is our players health and their families safety and it's impossible to achieve that with what we're being asked to do," he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, seven players remain on the NHL’s COVID Protocols list – Jalen Chatfield, Alex Edler, Jayce Hawryluk, Nils Hoglander, Zack MacEwen, Nate Schmidt and Jake Virtanen.
The league allowed Vancouver to reopen its facilities on Monday and general manager Jim Benning said 10 players skated that day.
All in all, the team has had eight games postponed stretching from March 31 to April 14.
"I think guys were pretty confident in themselves to get over it, but when it starts hitting wives and kids and pregnant wives, that’s when it really becomes more than hockey. That’s when it scares you a bit,” forward Tanner Pearson said earlier in the week.