Armia did not travel with the team originally because he was in the COVID-19 protocol. However, interim coach Luke Richardson said earlier on Monday that Armia would be a game-time decision, implying that Armia had tested negative to clear the protocol.
“He got clearance, so we’re excited to have him join us,” Richardson said. “But we’ll have to make all those decisions around game time because we don’t know when everybody’s getting here and who will be ready.”
Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme has been isolated from the team since Game 3 of the semifinal series after positive COVID-19 tests. Ducharme is expected to rejoin the bench for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after serving a full 14 days of quarantine.
Armia was not at Monday’s morning skate at Amalie Arena. Instead, Jake Evans took rushes in Armia’s usual spot on the Habs’ fourth line, alongside Corey Perry and Eric Staal. Evans took Armia’s spot in the lineup for Game 1.
Evans has not played since suffering a concussion in Game 1 of the second-round series against the Winnipeg Jets on June 2. Evans was stretchered off the ice after absorbing a high hit from Jets forward Mark Scheifele, who was suspended four games for the play.
“I think there’s always probably awareness when anyone comes back from an injury, and you know you’re going to protect yourself,” Richardson said. “But I think a hockey player’s instinct is you play the game and you play the way you play it. And Jake’s a guy that plays the game hard.”
Armia was also on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier this season, and he was out of the Montreal lineup from March 22 to April 10 after testing positive for a variant of the coronavirus. The Canadiens had four games postponed because of COVID-19 around the same time.
Armia is tied for the team lead with five goals this postseason and has eight points in 17 games. Evans has one goal — an empty-netter preceding Scheifele’s hit — in four games this postseason.
Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist, and Yanni Gourde’s third goal of the postseason was the game-winner, as Tampa Bay cruised in the opener, 5-1.
Evans had one shot on net for the Canadiens, in 11:55 of ice time.