MacKinnon clears COVID protocols, could play for Avs at Caps

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FILE – In this May 19, 2021, file photo, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is congratulated at the bench after scoring his second goal of night in the third period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues, in Denver. The National Hockey League is ready to drop the puck on a full 82-game season with fans back in every arena and a wide-open race for the Stanley Cup. The best shot belongs to Colorado, the preseason Cup favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook and anyone who has watched Nathan MacKinnon try to will his team to a championship as one of the best players in the world. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon has cleared NHL coronavirus protocols and could make his season debut Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals.

MacKinnon tested positive for the coronavirus last week and had been in the league’s COVID-19 protocols since Oct. 12. The three-time MVP finalist did not travel with the team Monday because he did not have the requisite number of negative coronavirus tests to be considered available.

Coach Jared Bednar said on his weekly radio show on Denver’s 92.5-FM that MacKinnon flew by himself Monday night. Under rules agreed to by the league and the players’ association, MacKinnon needed to test negative twice to be cleared to play.

MacKinnon, 26, missed Colorado’s first two games of the season. Because he is vaccinated, the 26-year-old’s absence was considered a hockey-related injury and he was paid during his time away.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said on opening night last week that the NHL had only four unvaccinated players out of roughly 700 on active rosters. He acknowledged the pandemic will still play a factor this season, such as vaccinated players missing games, and stressed the need for vigilance across the league’s 32 teams.

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