TARRYTOWN – Mika Zibanejad did not participate in Saturday’s training at MSG Training Center due to COVID-19 protocols, the New York Rangers announced.
Later that day, the team revealed it was due to a false positive test, with their No.1 cross cleared to play Sunday’s 6 p.m. home game against the Buffalo Sabers.
Zibanejad was able to return to New York after Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Toronto, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, his teammate Chris Kreider hinting that he would quickly be cleared.
“I’m pretty confident he’ll be able to play,” Kreider said.
Zibanejad contracted COVID in January, which forced him to miss part of the previous season’s training camp. He later admitted that the effects persisted into the season and it took him some time to “feel up to date after that.” He has since been vaccinated, as has the entire Ranger squad.
The 28-year-old has 14 points (four goals and 10 assists) in 17 games played so far this season and leads all of the Blueshirts forwards with an average time of 20:31 on the ice per game.
The Rangers have no recall from AHL Hartford, with additional forward Greg McKegg occupying Zibanejad’s usual top-six spot between Kreider and Barclay Goodrow for Saturday practice. It was a clear indication that they didn’t expect their upper center to be away for long.
“Be patient and we may hear something later,” foreshadowed coach Gérard Gallant.
This story has been updated to reflect a change in Zibanejad’s COVID status.