The Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils played a game on Sunday in Buffalo. By Tuesday, the next week of games for both teams had been postponed, and 16 players were on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol-related absences list.
The Sabres were scheduled to fly to New York for a two-game series against the Islanders. That trip was delayed because of weather on Monday and then delayed on Tuesday because Buffalo did not have adequate time to complete COVID-19 contact tracing and testing protocols.
Later on Tuesday, the league announced that the Sabres' games were postponed through at least Feb. 8, including two games at the Islanders and two games at the Boston Bruins. The decision was made by NHL, NHLPA and team medical personnel, "who determined that more caution was warranted while the League continues to analyze test results in the coming days."
Along with those postponements, the Sabres announced that star winger Taylor Hall and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had been added to the COVID-19-19 protocol-related absences list. Being on that list can mean anything from a positive test to required quarantine as a high-risk close contact.
A source told ESPN that Buffalo players were frustrated that Sunday's game was played at all, given the Devils' increasing number in the COVID protocols.
When the Devils and Sabres played on Jan. 30, New Jersey had four players on the COVID-19 protocol list. Before Sunday's rematch, winger Kyle Palmieri, who played over 18 minutes in the previous game, was added to the list.
"Sabres players and staff have been closely following and will continue to follow the COVID protocols as outlined by the NHL and the team's medical staff. Our organization will continue to work with the league and our medical team to ensure the health and safety of our players and staff," said the Sabres in a statement.
There were 10 Devils players on the COVID-19 protocol-related absences list as of Monday. Despite goalie Mackenzie Blackwood coming off that list on Tuesday, it now stands at 14 players. Joining the list were forwards Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt, along with defensemen Damon Severson, Ty Smith and Matt Tennyson.
Forwards Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Pavel Zacha and Travis Zajac, who were already on the list. Also listed are goalie Aaron Dell (travel quarantine), defenseman Sami Vatanen (travel quarantine) and defenseman Connor Carrick, who left the team to be with his wife, Lexi, for the birth of their first child.
There have been 18 NHL games postponed because of COVID protocols this season, which started on Jan. 13.