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NHL Buzz: Backstrom out for Capitals against Jets due to COVID protocols –

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Welcome to the NHL Buzz. Throughout the 2021-22 season, will have you covered with the latest news.
Nicklas Backstrom was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol and did not play when the Capitals visited the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. 
The center made his season debut and had an assist in a 5-4 shootout loss at the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday after recovering from a left hip injury.
The Capitals said Backstrom did not travel to Winnipeg from Chicago and transportation arrangements were made for him to return to Washington. Arrangements were also made for center Evgeny Kuznetsov to return to Washington after he entered protocol Wednesday.
Backstrom and Kuznetsov joined forward Garnet Hathaway in protocol. Center Nic Dowd and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk returned from protocol to play at Chicago on Wednesday, but they were ineligible to play at Winnipeg on Friday because of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions in Canada. Dowd and van Riemsdyk also returned to Washington. — Tom Gulitti
Artemi Panarin did not play against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday after the forward did not take part in the morning skate. 
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said Panarin, who left a 3-2 win at the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday after playing one shift in the second period because of a lower-body injury, was day to day. 
Center Filip Chytil took Panarin’s place at left wing on the second line with Ryan Strome and Dryden Hunt. 
“He’s a big, rangy guy. He can make plays. It’s not a knock against him playing center,” Gallant said about Chytil. “It’s just with Panarin possibly out tonight, we’ll see. We’ve got to fill that left-wing spot.”
Chytil was a healthy scratch against the Coyotes.
Panarin led the Rangers with 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists). He scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his past six games.
Forward Kaapo Kakko was on the first power-play unit at the morning skate, where he replaced Panarin on Wednesday. He scored two goals, including the game-winner on the power play. — Jon Lane
Forward Jujhar Khaira skated on his own Friday for the first time since the forward was taken off the ice on a stretcher following a hit by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba at United Center on Dec. 7.
Khaira has been in concussion protocol and remains on injured reserve.
“He’s a great guy,” Blackhawks coach Derek King said. “It’s just nice having him around the room and the guys are swarming to him. And I think just seeing him on the ice, it was nice to see him getting back and running again.”
Khaira was released from the hospital Dec. 8. He has scored two goals in 18 games this season.
The Blackhawks hosted the Nashville Predators on Friday.
Forwards John Tavares and Alexander Kerfoot were placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Friday.
Practice Friday was canceled in Vancouver, where the Maple Leafs are scheduled to play the Canucks on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SNO, SNW, SNP, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).
Nick Ritchie rejoined the Maple Leafs for practice Thursday after missing the start of a three-game road trip against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday because of a non-COVID illness. The forward skated on the left wing of a line with David Kampf and Ilya Mikheyev and hopes to return Saturday.
“Tough couple of days,” Ritchie said. “Luckily, no COVID. I had multiple tests that were negative. Just one of those seasonal things, I think, and I was knocked out for couple days.”
Toronto was scheduled to play the Calgary Flames on Thursday but the game was postponed after 19 Flames players, three coaches and nine staff members were placed in protocol. — Kevin Woodley
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Friday.
The forward is third on the Oilers with 22 assists and 25 points in 28 games this season.
Duncan Keith was placed into protocol later Friday. The defenseman was activated from injured reserve Tuesday after not playing since Nov. 23 because of a lower-body injury. He has one goal and four asssists in 20 games.
Edmonton coach Dave Tippett and forward Ryan McLeod were placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Tuesday.
The Oilers next play at the Seattle Kraken on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, SN 360, SN 1, CITY, TVAS2, ROOT-NW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).
Defenseman Cale Makar, forwards J.T. Compher and Andre Burakovsky, and goalie Darcy Kuemper entered NHL COVID-19 protocol Thursday and did not play for the Avalanche in a 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators.
Makar has scored 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 23 games. Compher has scored 11 points (six goals, five asissts) in 15 games, and Burakovsky has scored 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 25 games. Kuemper is 13-5-0 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 19 games this season.
The NHL announced Friday the Avalanche’s next four scheduled games through Dec. 23 have been postponed because of COVID-19 concerns.

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