The Wild debuted a different look when it returned to the ice Monday, just as it did in its last practice before the team dropped to 0-2 on the season.
But whether these new combinations will remain intact for the team’s next game Thursday against the Jets is unclear.
“We don’t know what the lineup’s going to be,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Center Eric Staal missed the session, taking a maintenance day to heal an undisclosed issue.
“I thought this was a good time for him to have a day off to get what’s ailing him completely better,” Boudreau said. “He’s going to be fine. He’s played through it. It’s just that he’s playing not 100 percent. I thought with these three days off it’d be something that he could get through.”
Boudreau is hopeful Staal returns to practice Wednesday and is available Thursday.
Staal has zero points and has recorded only one shot while sitting a team-worst minus-5. The 34-year-old called his performance in the season-opening 5-2 loss to the Predators “brutal,” a game in which he and his linemates were on the ice for three goals against.
But Boudreau said Staal was better Saturday, when the Wild lost 4-2 at Colorado.
“Sometimes it takes older guys a little bit longer,” Boudreau said. “But I’m not worried about Eric in the long run. I think he’s going to get his goals and he’s going to get his points. It’s just when you don’t win, you’d like them to be now.”
In the meantime, extra forward Victor Rask got in regular reps Monday alongside Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello.
Ryan Donato, who was with Staal and Zuccarello on Saturday, took Foligno’s spot on the fourth line, a move designed to add a “different element” to the top unit, Boudreau said.
“I think I’m bumped up just to create room for those guys and continue my physical play and just energy,” Foligno said. “Whether I’m used there in a couple shifts with them, that’s great. I’ve just got to play my game and try to get those guys going.
“They’ve been playing well. Just bounces haven’t been going their way. If I can get in on the forecheck and give Zuccarello the puck and let him kind of do his magic, it’s still early in the season but we want to get going now.”
Parade of penalties
The penalty kill has been a bright spot for the Wild amid its winless start, but its workload is a concern.
After being shorthanded 32 times in the preseason, which was tied for the second-most in the NHL, the Wild has already been on the kill on eight occasions. The team has given up just one goal in that span.
Half of the penalties have been hooking or tripping calls, infractions Boudreau believes can be eliminated by players checking with their legs instead of relying on their sticks.
“We are a really confident group,” Foligno said of the PK, which was seventh in 2018-19 at 81.7%. “Just coming off last season, we kind of have the same guys and the same work ethic and understand [assistant coach] Bob Woods and his mentality. But I think going into a game, three minors or less is kind of the goal.”
After a day off Tuesday, the Wild will have another practice session Wednesday before traveling to Winnipeg.
“It’s hard to wait,” winger Zach Parise said. “I’d rather have us play another game quicker than later this week. But we will take advantage of the time and work on some things.”