The NHL on Wednesday confirmed it has not guaranteed loosened virus protocols for players who are vaccinated after Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner ripped the league for what he said were unkept promises.

“Nobody from the league has communicated to any player or club that any of our COVID protocols would be `relaxed’ for any player once he is vaccinated,” a league spokesman said.

The NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball have set vaccination thresholds to relax some protocols, such as mask-wearing and prohibition of outdoor dining, when a certain percentage of team personnel are fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Those leagues have all teams currently playing in the U.S., where everyone 16 and older can get a vaccine. The NHL has seven teams in Canada, where eligibility – the nation only recently moved to 40 and older in some jurisdictions – and availability is not nearly as robust.

The NHL has only one player, Toronto’s Joe Thornton, over age 40 and playing in Canada, where 25% of people have received one dose and 2.5% are fully vaccinated, according to the Global Change Data Lab. In the U.S., roughly 40% have had one dose and 25% are fully vaccinated.

Lehner said the league showed players the NBA’s protocol plan and told them “(when) X amount of players leaders in this team or leaders around the league takes this vaccine, a new set of rules are going to come out.” He said he had calls with the league and NHL Players’ Association on Tuesday and found out nothing was changing.

“They told me yesterday they’re surveying all the teams to see who has taken the vaccine and who has not taken the vaccines and they’re not going to change the rules for us as players until all the teams have a fair, have the vaccines at the same time, so it’s not a competitive edge,” Lehner said during 10 minutes of unprompted comments on the subject. “They’re talking about competitive edge instead of human lives. Competitive edge, human lives. We’re humans, too.”

The league has not publicly announced any changes to its pandemic protocols, which limit where players, coaches and staff can go. Lehner’s comments concerned the mental health of himself and fellow players, a topic he has talked about often in recent years.

Lehner called the NHL’s situation “totally unacceptable.”

“Look at the NBA, NFL and the other leagues,” he said. “They’ve already implemented these things. And now we are, we are vaccinated and we’re still going to be trapped in a prison.”

Lehner apologized on Twitter for his use of the word “prison” but stood by his mental health concerns given the restrictive protocols.

PENGUINS: Kasperi Kapanen’s left foot is on the mend. The Pittsburgh forward practiced with his teammates without restrictions Wednesday for the first time since being placed on injured reserve last month.

Coach Mike Sullivan said there is still no timetable for Kapanen’s return, pointing to a lack of practice time due to the team’s compressed schedule. The Penguins host New Jersey on Thursday night and are in the midst of a particularly busy stretch in which they will play 10 games in 17 days to end the regular season.

That doesn’t leave much time for Kapanen to get back up to speed. It’s more likely at some point he’ll just be thrown into the lineup and see what happens.

Kapanen, reacquired by the Penguins in the offseason from Toronto, has seven goals and 14 assists in 30 games. After some issues early in the season, he flourished when moved next to Evgeni Malkin on the second line. Malkin has been out since getting hurt on March 16, with Kapanen joining him on the sideline a week later.

Pittsburgh is 9-3-1 during Kapanen’s absence to pull within a point of Washington and the New York Islanders for first place in the East Division.


BLACKHAWKS 5, PREDATORS 4: Brandon Hagel scored 3:00 into overtime, and Chicago rallied to beat visiting Nashville.

Hagel also had two assists as Chicago beat Nashville for the first time in seven games this season. Pius Suter and Vinnie Hinostroza each had a goal and an assist, and Malcolm Subban made 35 saves.

The Blackhawks trailed 4-1 after Luke Kunin scored 58 seconds into the third. But Hagel closed it out for Chicago when he beat Juuse Saros for his seventh of the season.

WILD 4, COYOTES 1: Kirill Kripizov scored a dazzling goal to break Minnesota’s rookie record, Cam Talbot stopped 39 shots and the visiting Wild stretched their winning streak to five games.

It was Kiprizov’s 19th goal, breaking Marian Gaborik’s rookie record.

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