CHICAGO (CBS) — The NHL has postponed the Chicago Blackhawks’ upcoming games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Winnipeg Jets this week, as the league continues to face the spread of COVID-19 while emerging from its Christmas break.

The league postponed Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets at the United Center and Wednesday’s game against the Jets in Winnipeg. No makeup dates have yet been announced.

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The postponements came as the NHL announced it would wait another day before returning from its league-wide pause to the season. All games scheduled for Monday have been postponed, meaning games will not resume any earlier than Tuesday.

The NHL previously announced that it would continue the regular season as scheduled, but would continue to shut down teams experiencing COVID outbreaks on a case-by-case basis for the time being, but that all games that require cross border travel between the United States and Canada will be suspended through the beginning of the league’s holiday break.

As the situation continues to escalate, the NHL and NHLPA also announced an update to its COVID-19 protocols to be observed through at least January 7. The league will resume daily testing for players and coaches, and potentially implement additional pre-game testing “on a case-by-case basis” in the event of a COVID outbreak within a team.

The league is tentatively set to resume its regular season on Tuesday with some adjustments to minimize schedule disruptions and keep the 2021-22 season going: Specifically, the re-introduction of taxi squads that teams will be able to draw from to keep their numbers up.

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According to the Associated Press, the NHL will now permit its teams to use a reserve squad consisting of up to six players when the regular season resumes, re-introducing the taxi squads that were featured during the league’s shortened 2021 season. Taxi squad players will count as being in the minors for NHL salary cap purposes, and they will be able to be on the taxi squad for a maximum of 20 days. The new taxi squads are set to be in effect through at least the NHL All-Star break in early February.

In addition to the taxi squads, the NHL will now also permit teams to make emergency recalls from the minor leagues should COVID-related absences prevent them from fielding a full lineup of players. Any team that is unable to have at least 12 forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies available will be able to bring up a player from the American Hockey League to prevent playing a game with less than 18 skaters.

Teams may now also make emergency recalls of players with a salary cap hit of up to $1 million, an increase from the $850,000 cap hit that had previously been the limit.

The changes were prompted after the NHL was forced to begin its annual Christmas break early due to the spread of COVID throughout the league, which forced a total of 64 games to be postponed. Although other leagues in the United States have adjusted their testing requirements with respect to the spread of COVID variants, the NHL’s ability to do so is constrained due to restrictions in place by the Canadian government.

The Blackhawks have now had five games postponed this month due to COVID-19, including previous games against the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, and Dallas Stars

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Most recently, the Blackhawks placed goalie Marc-Andre Fleury into the league’s COVID protocols and removed defenseman Calvin de Haan from the protocols. The Blackhawks recalled goalie Collin Delia to the active roster.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff