Some new faces to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup may be coming soon, as a result of COVID-19.
Forwards Josh Dunne and Tyler Sikura have been called up from the American Hockey League's Cleveland Monsters to the Blue Jackets' taxi squad, which the league and its Players Association agreed to temporarily bring back as a result of the recent surge in cases of COVID-19.
Dunne made his NHL debut last season with the Blue Jackets, skating in six games. The 23-year-old winger has eight points in 24 games so far this season with Cleveland. Sikura, a 29-year-old center, has a total of 17 goals and 15 assists with the Monsters over the last two seasons, a total of 53 games.
Details on the temporary taxi squad are as followed:
Clubs will be permitted to form Taxi Squads on a temporary basis beginning on Dec. 26, 2021, and lasting through the date of their final game prior to the scheduled dates for the 2022 All-Star Break. After each Club’s final game before the All-Star Break, its Taxi Squad will dissolve. Clubs may then recall or Reassign the Players that were assigned to the Taxi Squad.
- Clubs will be permitted to assign a maximum of six (6) Players to their Taxi Squad. All such assignments will be subject to Waiver requirements as applicable. No individual Player may spend more than twenty (20) cumulative days on the Taxi Squad during the temporary formation period.
Every team in the NHL has had at least two games postponed as a result of COVID-19's omicron variant, and several teams — including Columbus — have had at least five games that need to be rescheduled.
Seven Blue Jackets have been placed in the NHL's COVID protocol in the last ten days. Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic, and Gabriel Carlsson entered the protocol December 19th, with Eric Robinson, Andrew Peeke, and Joonas Korpisalo entering one day later, on December 20th. The seventh, Oliver Bjorkstrand, entered the protocol Monday, as reported by the club.
Three of those players — Roslovic, Peeke, and Carlsson — have cleared the league's COVID protocol and were back at practice Monday. Jenner, Robinson, and Korpisalo would be eligible to return by Thursday's game, but no announcement has been made regarding their status. Patrik Laine, who has missed nearly two months with an oblique strain, is also ready to return.
When (and if) the Columbus Blue Jackets play Thursday, it will be their first game in two weeks. Games against Calgary on the 18th of December and Buffalo on the 20th, the final two of a five-game road trip, were postponed, as was a home game with Buffalo set for December 23rd.
The postponements continued over the scheduled holiday break, when the league announced that Monday's home game against Toronto and Tuesday's road battle with Chicago were also postponed.