By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia has been cleared from COVID-19 protocol and could play against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.
Acting coach Luke Richardson said Armia was taking a private plane to Tampa and was considered a game-time decision. The Finnish forward missed practice Sunday after going into protocol.
“Joel is on his way down here right now,” Richardson said following the team’s morning skate at Amalie Arena. “He got clearance. Excited to have him join us, but we will have to make all those decisions at game time because we don’t know when he’s getting here.”
Asked if Armia tested negative, Richardson said “he must have” but was only informed the 28-year-old was on his way.
Armia has been an important player for the Canadiens in the playoffs, scoring two of five goals shorthanded as part of their penalty kill that is 43 of 46.
“He’s been a big piece of our team in these playoffs,” Montreal defenseman Joel Edmundson said. “Especially on our penalty kill he’s done great.”
If Armia does not play, Jake Evans would be in Montreal’s lineup for the first time since being injured by Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele in Game 1 of the second round. Scheifele was suspended four games for charging after hitting Evans in the final seconds of that series opener.
Hockey players need to put together an illustrious career on the ice to get into the Hall of Fame. Fans just need to send a good tweet.
The NHL and Twitter on Monday are inviting fans to tweet about what it would mean for their team to win the Stanley Cup. The top 52 will be etched into a silver plate and go into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“The thought was really finding a way to give fans recognition for their commitment the same way that we would with the players themselves,” NHL executive vice president and chief marketing officer Heidi Browning said.
The #StanleyTweets social media endeavor launches on the day of Game 1 of the final between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Lightning are trying to win back to back, the Canadiens are looking for their first championship since 1993.
“Back in ’93, you’d go, ‘How is this going to work?’” Cup keeper Phil Pritchard from the Hockey Hall of Fame said. “Because of the way social media influences everything now and the way fans have become instrumental in teams’ social media sites and cheering on their favorite players and teams, it’s a natural now.”
The goal is to pick 52 tweets — in multiple languages — to correspond to the 52 names the winning team gets on the Cup each season. NHL social media director Sean Dennison said the hope is for tweets that evoke emotion and sentimentality with some humor mixed in.
“We want this to be as symbolic of the Cup as possible and since 52 names get put on the Cup, let’s recognize 52 fans,” he said. “The modern day fan experience really does take place on social media and especially on Twitter. It captures what people are saying, and I think that’s an important part of the story for our sport and for a Stanley Cup win.”
Tampa Bay is expected to use the same lineup for the series opener against Montreal as it did in the semifinal clincher against the New York Islanders on Friday night. That means winger Nikita Kucherov playing after he missed almost all of Game 6 Wednesday with an undisclosed injury he’s now saying never happened.
“There was no injury,” Kucherov said Sunday. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I feel good. All good.”
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