After missing three games and not playing in eight days because of strep throat, Martin Hanzal, acquired by the Wild a few days before the trade deadline, returned Saturday night against the New York Rangers and now hopes to get into a rhythm.
"It's always tough to miss games," Hanzal said Saturday morning.
"I'm on a new team, so I'm trying to fit in and learn the system and everything around it. It's been tough. It's been a tough week for me."
Hanzal picked up his fifth assist in eight games Saturday. After a slow assimilation, the shame of getting sick during the third period of the March 10 game at Florida is that it happened in what was by far his best game with the Wild.
He had an assist, won 12 of 22 faceoffs, had three shots, five hits and three blocked shots.
"He was definitely a beast that game, for want of a better term," coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Hanzal skated for the first time since on Friday with skating and skills instructor Andy Ness, and he said he had low energy but felt better Saturday. Boudreau eased Hanzal into the lineup Saturday by skating him as the fourth-line center.
One game after playing in his 998th against brother, Jordan, and the Carolina Hurricanes, Eric Staal skated in his 999th Saturday against brother, Marc, and the New York Rangers.
"It's crazy," Eric Staal, 32, said of playing his brothers back-to-back before his 1,000th game Sunday in Winnipeg. "Sometimes you still pinch yourself the fact that the three of us are playing in the league and it's been as long as it has and we're at these numbers as far as games played goes. It's pretty cool."
Jordan Staal, 28, has played 751 games. Marc Staal, 30, has played 680.
"This was a dream of ours to play at this level, and for him, to hit 1,000 is pretty incredible," Marc Staal said. "It's a huge accomplishment. You pinch yourself every day knowing what you do for a living, and then you look at that number and the success he's had, we're all proud."
Sunday, Eric Staal's Bauer sticks and gloves will be specially branded with "1,000th game" marks, and he will wear a different jersey each period to mark the milestone. Every player and staff member will wear commemorative Eric Staal T-shirts.
Staal will be honored before the April 4 game against Carolina. His parents, wife, three sons and, of course, Jordan, will be on hand.
Ryan White, who followed two goals and an assist in his first two games with the Wild with eight pointless games, was scratched against the Rangers.
Jordan Schroeder, scratched in six of the previous seven games, played.
"I just think it's the consistency," Boudreau said. "There's some games that we come in, we've seen him and say, 'Man, this guy's great,' and there's other games we go, 'Oh man, what happened to him?'
"But today has nothing to do with the way he's been playing. We just wanted more speed in the lineup."
Blue line blues
Defenseman Matt Dumba has seven minor penalties in the past eight games and a team-leading 21.
"I think sometimes it's trying too hard," Boudreau said. "You get yourself out of position by jumping into the play and when you're playing from behind a lot, which we've been the last two weeks, you end up having to skate back and you get caught doing things that you're not supposed to do."
Injured defensemen Christian Folin and Gustav Olofsson (upper body injuries) each participated in Saturday's morning skate. Boudreau guesses "they'll both be ready within the week."