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  1. Lightning

Mumps, afflicting NHL, hard to control

FILE - This is an April 3, 2014, file photo showing Pittsburgh Penguins' Beau Bennett (19) and Sidney Crosby (87) after a goal by Bennett against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Penguins are worried forward Beau Bennett has mumps. General manager Jim Rutherford said Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, that Bennett has symptoms and the team is awaiting test results before making a diagnosis. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is out for Monday night's game against Tampa Bay after being diagnosed over the weekend. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods, File) NY159
FILE - This is an April 3, 2014, file photo showing Pittsburgh Penguins' Beau Bennett (19) and Sidney Crosby (87) after a goal by Bennett against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Penguins are worried forward Beau Bennett has mumps. General manager Jim Rutherford said Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, that Bennett has symptoms and the team is awaiting test results before making a diagnosis. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is out for Monday night's game against Tampa Bay after being diagnosed over the weekend. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods, File) NY159
Published Dec. 21, 2014

NEWARK, N.J.

So am I the only one who thought mumps was a thing of the past, like polio?

Well, I was about as right as Ron Burgundy from Anchorman saying diversity is an "old wooden ship."

Mumps, a contagious viral infection, has taken the NHL by storm, with 16 players and five teams confirmed to have been impacted. Multiple teams have cancelled holiday hospital visits and public appearances because of the outbreak.

The Lightning hasn't been affected, but several players said last week they were resigned to mumps eventually hitting their locker room. They're not alone.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see more cases," said Greg Wallace, leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's domestic measles, mumps, rubella and polio team.

Wallace said that typically, between a couple hundred and a couple thousand cases of mumps are reported in the United States each year. This year there have been more than 1,000, but Wallace said half of those are associated with an outbreak in Ohio; otherwise, this would be a "below normal" year.

As much as teams have done their best to prevent mumps — the Lightning had players and staff tested and, if necessary, vaccinated last month — nothing is foolproof.

For one thing, people are contagious for two days before they start to show symptoms, which typically include swelling of the facial glands. And the vaccine for mumps is only 88 percent effective, Wallace said. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had a booster shot in February but was diagnosed with mumps last week.

The Lightning has been cautious in other ways, too. When defenseman Radko Gudas had a stomach virus last week, he flew separately from the team commercially to Pittsburgh from Washington. Center Tyler Johnson has been kept out of team activities the past couple of days due to a similar bug.

"I think if there's ever been a year where it's trying to protect everyone from getting some type of infection, it's this one," coach Jon Cooper said.

"When you've got 25, 30 people in airplanes and the locker room and all that togetherness, you are pretty much (risking the virus spreading). Unless … everyone's wearing masks and gloves.

"Believe me, we're taking precautions, because people get sick."

SLAP SHOTS: Left wing Jonathan Drouin's promotion to the top line last week was a product of a few things: the struggling Lightning offense needing a spark and the rookie earning more time with his play. But it didn't hurt that center Steven Stamkos supported the move in talks with Cooper. "I definitely enjoy playing with him," Stamkos said. "I know the skill set he has. Hopefully we can keep it up and stay together."

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