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Oilers forward Archibald receives medical exemption, enabling full return to team

EDMONTON — Winger Josh Archibald, one of two National Hockey League players who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, is now available to play in all remaining playoff games for the Edmonton Oilers.

The announcement was made on Wednesday morning, as the Oilers prepared to avenge a Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 tonight.

“He is an available player to us, home or road, and that’s a good sign for our team,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft revealed in his media address. “His cardiologist was able to obtain a medical exemption for him based on his history of myocarditis. So as a coaching staff, he’s a real good option for us.”

Archibald had myocarditis last summer, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed that sometimes occurs in patients who’ve had COVID-19. He was unvaccinated when he developed the heart condition and refused to get the vaccine after recovering.

It is not known on what grounds exactly Archibald was granted the exemption and his agent was unable to be reached before publication.

Archibald’s refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 cost him most of a season, as he was not able to cross the border or travel on the team charter within Canada. Relegated to home games only, Archibald played just eight NHL games this season, logging just a single assist and seven penalty minutes.

“It’s exciting to be back, and to be back in the playoffs,” said the 29-year-old Archibald, who played in Game 82 of the regular season on Friday night. “I think I’ve been around long enough, and I’m back up to speed. Playoffs are another level, but I’ll bring what I bring tonight.”

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Archibald skated as a left-winger on the Oilers’ third line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Derek Ryan at Wednesday’s morning skate.

Throughout his 243-game NHL career, the diminutive Archibald had cemented himself as a solid penalty killer, a responsible Bottom 6 winger and a speedy forechecker whose body checking ability punches well above his five-foot-10, 176-pound stature.

“I see a feisty type of guy, someone who gets in on the forecheck,” Woodcroft assessed. “He finishes his check on him, (he is a) detailed checker working back towards his own zone, and he’s a good penalty killer. He’ll come into the lineup and give us a burst of energy.”

In last year’s playoffs however, with Edmonton trailing two games to one but ahead of the Winnipeg Jets by a 4-1 score halfway through the third period of Game 3, Archibald made the gaffe that cost the Oilers the game and perhaps the series. He took a selfish penalty on Jets defenseman Logan Stanley that put Winnipeg on the power play, leading to a mammoth comeback by the Jets, who would eventually win the game in overtime.

It was the bad side of over-exuberance, a crushing decision that Archibald won’t soon live down in Edmonton. Followed by his vaccination status that left the team short an important player, it will take a strong playoff performance to erase all of Josh Archibald’s track record over the past 12 months with Edmonton.

“You have to play on the edge but you don’t want to go over,” he said. “There were some emotions last year that led to one thing, but I just have to play on the edge, play my game and play hard tonight.”

He’s a right-shot left-winger tonight, on an intriguing line with Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan that will be counted on for some depth scoring.

“I played the majority of the games this year on my off wing,” he said. “I bring a little physicality, they bring skill, and we all have speed.”


Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 situation, in sports and around the world, is constantly evolving. Readers in Canada can consult the country’s public health website for the latest.

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