Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin was in disbelief when informed following the second period Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19. His first concern was for his teammates after being in close proximity with them during the first two periods of the game in Dallas.
Those fears were alleviated the next day, when Larkin tested negative, enabling him to fly to Las Vegas on Wednesday and join the team for tonight’s game against the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena (10 p.m., Bally Sports Detroit).
Larkin and the team are relieved, though a bit frustrated he had to sit out the third period of a 5-2 loss to the Stars and experience some anxiety due to a false positive test.
“Disbelief, frustration and then the possibility that I had COVID and trying to get out of there and not infect anyone, although I’d played two periods,” Larkin said. “I thought a lot about the guys and not having a bigger situation come out of it. Just an unfortunate situation and I really felt like we were coming on. I wasn’t really able to watch the third there.”
Coach Jeff Blashill noted how quickly COVID can spread through a team.
“It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day everybody is probably going through different things that can be frustrating with COVID,” Blashill said. “That’s just the reality of it. You got to deal with it.”
Vaccinated players and team personnel are required to be tested every 72 hours, but in a situation like this, they were all tested again after the Dallas game. Tyler Bertuzzi, the NHL’s lone unvaccinated player, is tested daily.
The Red Wings were tested earlier in the day Tuesday, but results weren’t available until later that evening.
“We’re at the mercy of the home team,” Blashill said. “Most of the teams in the league have the ability to get those turned around quickly (30 minutes, he said). Dallas doesn’t have that. I think they’re working towards that.”
Larkin remained isolated in his Dallas hotel room until getting the results of his native test on Wednesday night.
“It’s been tough, but it’s part of the world right now and part of the protocols,” Larkin said. “It has been challenging mentally. Thinking about other people. Thinking about the possibility of 10 days out (if the positive test were confirmed).”
Larkin said he did not experience any symptoms.
“But you’ve seen it a lot of times with guys testing positive, they don’t get symptoms for a day or two,” he said. “You never know. You just follow the protocols and follow the rules and take it very serious, which it is. Luckily it was nothing.”
Larkin said he relaxed in his hotel room Wednesday while waiting for his follow-up test results.
“Trying to eat healthy and hydrate and do the things I normally do, but just staying in the hotel room,” he said. “Yesterday was a pretty uneventful day.”
He can’t say that for his season. He was suspended for one game for punching Tampa Bay’s Mathieu Joseph in the face in retaliation for a hit from behind in the season-opener. Then he missed the final three games of the previous road trip due to what he described as a family emergency.
“There’s been some difficult things going on,” Larkin said. “When I came back after the time away last week, I was really hoping to have that all in the past and try to move forward. I’m looking to do that tonight and continue to be there for the guys and play really hard.”
Larkin has five goals in the past five games and eight in 14 games, one short of his total in 44 games last season.
“I think he was disappointed and frustrated with his year last year,” Blashill said. “I think he felt like he has more to offer, and I think he’s playing really good this year when he’s played. It’s not been easy, been a lot of stops and starts in terms of games he’s been in and not been able to play. I think he’s done a really good job of staying focused on what he can control and that’s his effort level and his output in games.”
Staal out: Blashill said defenseman Marc Staal is not expected to play tonight due to a non-COVID related illness. It would be the first game Staal has missed since joining the Red Wings at the start of last season.