Habs coach Dominique Ducharme in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19

Montreal Canadiens interim coach Dominique Ducharme has been sent home after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Habs general manager Marc Bergevin held a 5:45 p.m. news conference to confirm the coach would not be at the Bell Centre for Game 3, scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Friday.

"I talked to Dom twice today, he’s doing fine. He’s at home," Bergevin said. "As far as tonight, Luke Richardson will run the bench, with Alex Burrows and Sean Burke. That's going to be the set-up for tonight's game."

Less than three hours before Friday's game, the National Hockey League said in a statement a presumptive positive result for the virus was detected after testing in Las Vegas on Thursday. Further testing on Friday confirmed the positive result, according to the statement. 

Ducharme received his second COVID-19 vaccine on June 9, though health officials have said a second shot can take two weeks to build full immunity in the body. 

"Per NHL protocols, Coach Ducharme was immediately isolated from the team," the statement said. "All tests administered to the players, other coaches and hockey staff from both yesterday and today have returned uniformly negative results."

The NHL is comfortable going ahead with Friday's game and the team didn't make any special requests to allow the game to go on, according to Bergevin. "We didn't ask for anything, we were really clear and transparent with the situation," he said. 

Bergevin told reporters at the news conference that it's not clear for how long Ducharme will have to remain in isolation and that the team is in talks with public health for next steps. In the meantime, the interim coach will still be involved remotely in planning games as the series continues. 

Canada's chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, was asked about Ducharme's situation before the positive result was confirmed. She said that while Canada is fortunate to have a steady supply of vaccines, none are 100 per cent effective, even with two doses. 

"Sports teams have to have protocols," she added. "So at this time, these type of games are performed under the auspices of public-health departments that have safety plans in place so that should someone become positive, they don't spread that virus to a lot of other people."

The series is the first cross-border matchup in the NHL this season, made possible by a federal exemption allowing teams to bypass Canada's 14-day quarantine requirements.

Ducharme was promoted to the interim post from an assistant's role after Claude Julien was fired Feb. 24.

With files from The Canadian Press