After waiting more than a week into training camp to get the greenlight to touch down in the Twin Cities and then traveling 16 hours to complete the journey, Kevin Fiala finally joined the Wild at Xcel Energy Center Saturday.
But the winger won’t get to stay in Minnesota for long.
He will be back on the road Sunday, as the Wild jets off to Denver to finish off a back-to-back against the Avalanche and then sticks around Colorado for another three days to bond and practice before continuing to Dallas for its second-to-last preseason tilt.
“Very exciting to be back with the team,” Fiala said Saturday during the second intermission of an eventual 4-3 Wild exhibition victory over the Avalanche. “We’re going to have a trip just the guys, so it’s going to be very fun.”
These whirlwind couple days come on the heels of a prolonged process to get Fiala back in the mix after he signed a two-year, $6 million contract Sept. 11, the day before players reported to camp.
Before he could leave Europe, Fiala needed to secure a work visa — clearance that comes after he has a contract but authorization that still took longer than he anticipated to receive.
While that was sorted out, Fiala practiced in Sweden and said he doesn’t feel behind. He was on the ice Saturday after arriving late Friday night, even taking a skating test that coach Bruce Boudreau said Fiala aced.
“He’s 15 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last year [with] 5.7 [percent] body fat,” Boudreau continued.
It’s possible Fiala draws into Sunday’s lineup, although the Wild is keeping an eye on how jetlagged he feels. If fatigue is a factor, he’ll play only the final two preseason games. The 23-year-old is poised to assume a right-wing spot in the top six.
“Right wing is great for me,” Fiala said. “I think as a lefty I have more options on the entries. I can go inside. Just more possibilities.”
Added in a trade before last season’s deadline that sent Mikael Granlund to the Predators, Fiala returns more familiar with the Wild after a 19-game stint in which he recorded three goals and seven points. But he also feels he’s getting a fresh start.
“I had a great summer behind me,” he said. “I feel ready, physically, mentally, whatever it takes. I think it’s going to be a great season for us.”
The victory over the Avalanche was the Wild’s first of the preseason after the team started 0-1-1.
Newcomer Mats Zuccarello scored the decisive goal on a breakaway 9 minutes, 44 seconds into the third period and set up two others.
Defenseman Matt Dumba and center Eric Staal also had multi-point efforts, with each chipping in a goal and assist. Winger Jason Zucker was the other Wild goal scorer.
Devan Dubnyk finished with 30 saves in his first action of the preseason.
Captain Mikko Koivu was also making his exhibition debut, appearing in his first game since he suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee Feb. 5. He logged 16:41, including 6:34 on the penalty kill.
“I felt pretty good but still first game,” Koivu said. “I obviously want to feel better. I think it’s a good start.”
Boudreau’s highlight of the game came when winger Marcus Foligno went after the Avalanche’s Dan Renouf late in the first period after Renouf crunched Dumba into the boards.
Foligno received a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Renouf was tagged for roughing and charging.
“You’ve got to answer that stuff,” Foligno said, “and we have to be a team that can push back and play that gritty game.”
The Wild placed Sam Anas, Colton Beck, Gabriel Dumont, Mike Liambas and Hunter Warner on waivers.
If they clear Sunday, they will be assigned to Iowa of the American Hockey League.
These subtractions put the training camp roster at 32.