Eight Canucks players and coaches have been confirmed as positive for COVID-19; that number is expected to grow Saturday.

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The news for the Vancouver Canucks has gone from bad to worse.

Postmedia has confirmed as reported first by TSN’s Farhan Lalji that several COVID-19 cases affecting the NHL club have been identified as the P.1 variant first found in Brazil.

That variant has been growing in number in B.C. over the past month and was recently identified as a major driver of an outbreak that originated in Whistler. Some research has shown the P.1 variant is as much as 2.5 times more transmissible than earlier strains of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Further, it is expected that more Canucks players will be confirmed as positive when the NHL updates its COVID-19 protocol list on Saturday afternoon.

Four Canucks games have already been postponed because of the team’s outbreak, which has seven players and one coach confirmed as positive cases already. And a player on the team’s taxi squad has been identified as a high-risk close contact, a source confirmed.

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On Friday, the NHL told Postmedia they want to wait and see if more players and staff tested positive for the virus before making further decisions on the Canucks’ schedule.

But with so many players now likely out for two weeks or more, it will be difficult for the Canucks to return to action by next weekend, putting their chances of playing a full 56-game season in serious doubt. The NHL wants to start the Stanley Cup playoffs on May 11, and with the Canucks already almost certain to miss the playoffs and having no real hope of playing any home games with fans in the stands, there’s little remaining reason for the team to play a full schedule.

On Thursday, the entire Canucks’ travelling party, including players on the NHL roster and taxi squad, as well as coaches and support staff, were told to isolate at home. Anyone who did not test positive would have to stay home until at least next Tuesday, the league, in partnership with the NHL Players’ Association and local public health officials, said.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

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