NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy returned from COVID-19 protocol on Monday. Boston hosts the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.

The specter of COVID is hovering around the National Hockey League yet again and the Bruins have not been untouched by it.

On Monday, word came out that the Calgary Flames, who the Bruins played on Saturday night, had six players and a member of their training staff enter the league’s COVID-19 protocol and their games through Dec. 16 had been postponed. The Bruins were hoping that they were untouched by that apparent outbreak, but three of their players — Linus Ullmark, John Moore and Connor Clifton — were held out of practice for “testing issues.”

Bruce Cassidy, himself in his first day back from being in protocol for the last two weeks, said the hope was that those issues would be resolved and they’d be on the ice on Tuesday.

Fortunately for Cassidy, his symptoms were relatively mild. He started experiencing bad headaches the day of the home game against Vancouver on Nov. 28 and he tested positive the next day. He said the headaches lasted just 2-3 days.

But he knows people who have fared worse than he did. Ottawa Senators associate coach Jack Capuano had a scary bout during which he could not shake a 103-degree fever for several days.

“I’ve had friends who have been hospitalized. The coach in Ottawa who I know had high fever,” said Cassidy. “But I never had a fever, so I always thought that that’s a good sign. That’s what seems to be associated with the guys who’ve had it worse. So I was thankful for that. I was vaccinated. Does that have something to do with it? The scientists can answer that question. I hope it did, that you don’t get severely ill.”

Now as the restrictions are starting to tighten up again, Cassidy that while he can understand the measures being taken, the rules can wear on people.

“We went into Toronto and we had to wear masks and you’re thinking ‘We’re doing this all over again. We did this in the bubble.’ You’re limited in your activities away from the rink, even though none of the players have tested positive,” said Cassidy. “There’s a lot of that stuff going on. The new regulations. And it’s all for everyone’s good. We understand that. But it does get tiring.

“But now you see what happens with Calgary. They’re shutting down, so is there any aftereffects for our guys because we just played there? We hope not, in the long run. It is tough, but it’s the way the world is now and you’ve got to battle through it. Obviously, Tampa found a way two years in a row to come out on top through COVID times. As long as they play the games, you have to find a way.”

In his time away from the team, Cassidy tried to check in with the team as much as he could without being obtrusive to the coaching assistants Joe Sacco, Kevin Dean and Chris Kelly, who were running the show. He made sure to be involved in the power-play because he’s heavily involved in that but tried to stay out of the way.

“Predominantly, they were doing their thing. They were in the soup, the heat of the battle, so I wasn’t going to bother them unless I saw something obvious,” said Cassidy.

“You try to stay involved but out of the way once the puck drops and they have to make their decisions. And Joe was great. They did a great job obviously, got the guys ready to to play, Kevin and Chris and Bob (Essensa). And I think it was good for Joe to get back at it. He’d been a head coach before (in Colorado) and hopefully that raises his profile. He did a good job. Guys responded.”

Cassidy addresses DeBrusk trade request

Cassidy had not yet commented on Jake DeBrusk’s trade request that became public the day he went into protocol. He was asked how difficult to deal with a player who essentially did not want to be there anymore.

“I think it was (Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin that said it a while ago,” he said ‘It’s always better when you have volunteers instead of hostages.’ It’s just easier to run your room and your team. And we’re no different in that case,” said Cassidy. “That being said, Jake’s come to work every day, in talking to Joe. He’s ready to play and not being a distraction. We talked to the leaders in the room and they’ve accepted it.”

“It happens in sports. They just want to play. The ask of Jake when I talked to him was ‘Help us win games. Be a good pro. We’ll try to do what we can for you.’ That goes upstairs to (GM Don Sweeney) obviously, but we want to do what’s best for the team as well. I think we’re handling it well as a group. He’s tried to be as professional as possible. That’s the ask of everybody. And we’ll see how it plays out.”

DeBrusk has scored two big goals in wins in Nashville and Edmonton since the request became public.