The Wild is near the bottom of the NHL in some key categories, such as wins and points, the residual effect of the team getting off to the worst start in franchise history.
But where it’s at the top of the leaderboard is in fewest home games played.
After taking on the Kings on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild became the last club to make just its fourth showing on home ice — which is tied for the lowest number of appearances across the league.
Not only has this schedule magnified the importance of the Wild succeeding on the road, which has been a struggle so far with the team 1-6 as the visitor, but it’s also affected players’ lives off the ice since they’ve had less time at home.
“Obviously, we have quite a few guys with multiple kids,” goalie Alex Stalock said. “… That’s hard. I know I’ve kind of said to my family, ‘Once we get through this first couple months, we’ll be home a little more.’ ”
Before the third of four mandatory days off each month on Sunday, the Wild spent 13 of 26 days in October either flying out for a game or playing/practicing on the road — an itinerary that has limited the downtime at home. And players have felt the squeeze.
And November will be much of the same, with a four-game trip near the beginning of the month and a three-game trek around the end.
“I’ll go to practice, and then I won’t get home till an hour or two hours later because I have to get some stuff done,” Stalock said. “… You’re home, but you’re not home.”
Center Joel Eriksson Ek returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the previous three games with a lower-body injury suffered after blocking three consecutive shots from Montreal’s Shea Weber on Oct. 17.
To activate Eriksson Ek from injured reserve, the Wild assigned center Gabriel Dumont to the American Hockey League.
Eriksson Ek started Saturday’s game between wingers Zach Parise and Luke Kunin.
Kaapo Kahkonen backed up Stalock for a second straight game, with No. 1 Devan Dubnyk still recovering from an upper-body injury suffered after he fell on his back in the 3-0 win over the Oilers on Tuesday.
“He’s doing fine, as fine as he could be,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s not ready to play yet, but he’s practicing and he’ll be ready to play next week.”
Boudreau also expects winger Jordan Greenway, who’s in concussion protocol, to resume playing in the coming days. Greenway was idle for a second game in a row.
But the Wild did have winger Ryan Hartman on the ice vs. the Kings, after he was banged up Thursday in the 4-0 loss to the Predators following a shot block.
Kings forward Blake Lizotte had a cheering section lining the glass during warmups when the Lindstrom native and former Chisago Lakes High School standout took to the ice for a few solo turns before the rest of the team joined him.
After making his NHL debut late last season following two seasons at St. Cloud State, this was Lizotte’s first NHL game in Minnesota.
“That was pretty cool,” said Lizotte, who was expecting more than 200 friends and family in attendance Saturday.
“You see that growing up, and to have all my friends and family and supporters there was pretty cool. All the signs and everything, that was an experience I’ll forever be grateful for.”