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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 17, 2020
Flames Erik Gustafsson (L) lines up against Alan Quine during Calgary Flames NHL training camp at the Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Erik Gustafsson matches up against Alan Quine during Calgary Flames NHL training camp at the Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Alan Quine gets a shot past goaltender David Rittich as the team held its first practice since the COVID-19 shutdown at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Monday, July 13, 2020. Gavin Young/Postmedia
EDMONTON — As they say, anything can happen at this time of the year.
The National Hockey League playoffs tend to result in groin tweaks, hamstring pulls, knee injuries, sprains, strains, bruises, you name it — or, in the case of the 2020 post-season this summer, it could be a positive COVID-19 test.
For the record, the league announced on Monday that there have been no positive COVID-19 results following 7,013 tests administered in the first week of Phase 4 of its return-to-play plan.
For precautionary reasons, teams have a reserve squad. Although their faces haven’t necessarily been visible to viewers at home who are watching the action at Edmonton’s Rogers Place during the Stanley Cup qualifying round.
Alan Quine found out a few years ago — in the spring of 2016 — things can shift rapidly.
The Calgary Flames forward had been in the New York Islanders system at the time and, with only a few games left at the end of the 2015-16 season and the Islanders qualified for the playoffs, Quine had been recalled.
But the Belleville, Ont., native impressed so much in the brief audition that the Islanders called him again to be part of their “Black Aces” during the post-season.
As luck would have it, the Islanders’ current captain Anders Lee wound up breaking his leg, opening the door for Quine.
“Before I knew it, I was in Game 1,” said the 27-year-old who drew into nine games this year for the Flames in the regular season, and 13 last year. “So, I just went with it … and things changed pretty quickly and I was with (John) Tavares and (Kyle) Okposo for the rest of the playoffs.”
Quine drew into New York’s lineup for a total of 10 playoff games, scoring one goal — the double-overtime winner in Game 5 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This came only two weeks after making his NHL debut.
“I’ve done it, I’ve lived it,” Quine said. “It was really quick for me. One week I was in the minors, the next week I was first-line playing in the NHL playoffs. It was a crazy couple of weeks. But it’s the same thing here.”
Quine is referring to the NHL bubble in Edmonton as teams are battling to try and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup finals.
Quine is part of the Flames taxi squad, along with fellow forwards Byron Froese, Austin Czarnik, and Buddy Robinson, defencemen Oliver Kylington, Jusso Valimaki, Michael Stone, and Alexander Yelesin, and goalies Jon Gillies and Artyom Zagidulin.
They are responsible for staying prepared in case anything goes haywire at Rogers Place. Or in practice. Or on the walk from the hotel to the arena.
“We use all the practice time we have to emulate real games,” said Quine. “We are just trying to keep the body ready. Eat well. Sleep well. Stay focused because you’ll never know when you will get your opportunity. You hope to make the most of any opportunity that any of us do get. That’s the goal, to stay ready, to stay sharp, and to do the best you can to do that.”
The group will typically head out on the ice after the main group finishes for skating and shooting. Shooting and skating. Rinse and repeat.
Then, they’ll watch the games against the Winnipeg Jets from the Flames designated suite.
“If anything happens, you just have to make sure you’re ready to fill in for any type of role,” Quine said.
For Froese, this is a reward for the work he has put in ever since the Flames and the NHL returned to the ice. The 29-year-old Winkler, Man., native played 46 American Hockey League games with the Stockton Heat this season as the team’s captain. And while he has 110 games of NHL experience with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Montreal Canadiens, this is the first time he’s been part of a reserve squad.
“It’s cool being so close, to be a part of it,” he said. “You never know what could happen. Every playoff run, teams run into injuries, illnesses, and that kind of stuff. Especially with the way the times are now, it’s even more important.
“It’s just been exciting to be around, and try to be ready every day.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020