Devils coach Lindy Ruff tests positive, misses Oilers game

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New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson (28) celebrates a 4-3 victory with goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29) following an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff tested positive for COVID-19 hours before the Devils’ 6-5 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday and was isolated from the team.

Also Friday, the NHL announced it was postponing eight more games because of COVID-19-related attendance restrictions in some Canadian cities. The league said the games “will be rescheduled for dates later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted.”

The Islanders had road games at Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary postponed, so the league decided to postpone their game scheduled for Tuesday at Seattle as well.

The Devils made their announcement about Ruff roughly 45 minutes after he did not show up for a pregame news conference. When the conference started, assistant coach Alain Nasreddine walked in and said he would be running the team.

Nasreddine, who usually handles the defensemen in the game, said Ruff was going to stay in the Prudential Center for the contest. He said the two would be in communication during the game.

Captain Nico Hischier said having Nasreddine handle the Devils was not a problem. The game plan was in place.

“Obviously he did a great job, but for us players stuff like that happens,” Hischier said. “We shouldn’t change. And that’s what we did. He (Nasreddine) was talking about it before the game. It doesn’t matter, basically who’s behind the bench. We’re playing the same system. We want to play the same way with Lindy and Nas.”

The 61-year-old Ruff was hired as Devils coach for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and the team missed the playoffs. New Jersey is currently in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division.

Nasreddine coached the Devils on an interim basis for 43 games during the 2019-20 season after John Hynes was fired in early December. He posted a 19-16-8 record. Ruff kept him on his staff.

Also Friday, Chicago goaltender Kevin Lankinen was held out of practice because of COVID-19 protocol. With Marc-Andre Fleury already in the protocol, Collin Delia could make his first NHL start of the season when the Blackhawks visit Nashville on Saturday.

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