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Lightning’s Steven Stamkos placed on NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list

The development is unrelated to the lower-body injury that kept Tampa Bay’s captain out of Thursday’s game.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list on Friday.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list on Friday. [ STEVE NESIUS | AP ]
Published Feb. 12
Updated Feb. 13

SUNRISE — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos went on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list Friday, a situation unrelated to his absence from Thursday’s game against the Panthers.

“At this time we suspect a false positive test,” Stamkos posted on Twitter on Friday night while thanking everyone who had reached out to him. “Hopefully that’s the case, and I will be back on the ice in the next couple of days. Crossed fingers. Until then I will continue to follow the NHL Covid list protocols.”

Stamkos is unable to practice, travel or play in games while on the list.

Stamkos missed Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury, the team said, and was called day to day because of that before he was put on the protocol list.

Being placed on the list does not mean that a player had a confirmed positive coronavirus test. Players can be on the list for being deemed a close contact of someone who did test positive or they could have had an unconfirmed or false positive test. Teams aren’t required to specify why a player is on the list or how much time he is expected to miss.

Stamkos is the third Lightning player to be on the list this season. Forward Blake Coleman spent two days on it, and backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney was on it for two weeks.

Stamkos last played Tuesday, registering two goals and an assist in a 6-1 win in Nashville. He leads Tampa Bay with seven goals this season and is tied for second on the team in points with Victor Hedman with 14.

The Lightning have been on the road since Sunday, when they traveled to Nashville. They played in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, and flew to South Florida on Wednesday. The Predators didn’t have anyone on the protocol list Friday. The Panthers had one player who already had been on the list.

Stamkos might have to remain in South Florida in isolation until he exits the protocol. As part of the league’s virus directives, teams must secure extra hotel rooms in road cities in case players have to remain in isolation.

Seven teams — Dallas, Carolina, Minnesota, New Jersey, Colorado, Buffalo and Philadelphia — have had to shut down for a time during the season’s first month because of virus issues.

As a result, the league announced a beefed-up set of protocols Thursday. They include requiring team meetings to be held virtually and providing rapid virus tests to augment daily PCR testing already in place. PCR tests are considered to be more accurate, but there’s a 12- to 24-hour turnaround on results.

The new directives also recommend that when players are at home, they leave their homes only to attend practices and games, and for essential activities. They also recommend that other household members stay at home and consider using grocery delivery services.

“People are getting (the coronavirus) around the league, and teams have been out for a few weeks now,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said after Friday’s practice. “So I think they’re just trying to minimize close contact if someone does get it. The protocols are the protocols.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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