Last Monday, hours after practicing with the Wild in its first skate since the bye, Zach Parise woke up with a scary lump on his neck. Jason Pominville woke up with one side of his face sore and swollen.
Pominville called the Wild medical trainer and was told to get to the team doctor's office. He arrived, and much to his surprise, there was Parise. Soon after, the Wild's team operations manager showed up. Then, the Wild's massage therapist.
For the second time in three years — and a few days after Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens was diagnosed — the Wild was clobbered by the mumps again.
"But it wasn't that bad," Pominville insisted. "I had a fever and stuff like that, but I didn't get it as bad as some guys a couple of years ago because of the booster shot we got [in 2014]."
Parise, Pominville and Stevens returned to practice Saturday. Teammates naturally had fun with it, constantly calling them "Mumpsies" or "Mumpers" or "Mumpford and Sons" or "The Mumpets."
Despite not playing since the final game before the Wild's "bye" Feb. 21, Parise and Pominville, who had a hard skate Friday with skating and skills instructor Andy Ness, intend to play Sunday against the San Jose Sharks.
Stevens, too, will resume his role behind the bench.
"I'm happy to be back. Too much time at home," said Stevens who, like Parise and Pominville, missed three games.
Between naps, Stevens did a lot of computer and video work from home. He didn't enjoy watching the games on television, though.
"It's hard enough to be behind the bench and watch. I'd rather be on the ice playing," the Hall of Fame defenseman said. "But watching the games on TV, … my wife left the room a couple times."
Parise, who never felt sick from the virus, and Pominville were bored out of their minds.
"I had to stay a good distance away from [my wife and children] the last five or six days," Parise said. "That's never fun. A lot of Clorox wipes around the house. A lot of washing the hands and wearing a mask around the house. … But I didn't dare leave the house. I'd get a couple weird looks if I did."
Added Pominville, laughing: "I was in my room pretty much the whole time. My wife would bring me my food in the room. I think the toughest part, with it being public, everyone knows, so now when you walk around, everyone is kind of looking at you like, 'What are you doing out here?'"
Because no other Wild player or staffer has reported mumps symptoms in a week, the Wild hopes it's done with the latest outbreak. The Wild plays 20 games in the next 35 days and doesn't have more than a day between games the rest of the regular season.
With Parise and Pominville back, coach Bruce Boudreau unveiled three new lines Saturday, then met individually with each of the four lines to explain what he envisions their role being and the type of play he expects from them.
Eric Staal centered Parise and Chris Stewart (Boudreau liked how Stewart played with Staal on Thursday in Columbus). The Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund line remained intact, Martin Hanzal centered a huge line with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle, and Pominville skated with Erik Haula and Ryan White.
Boudreau is intrigued by the Hanzal line.
"I told them, I had [Ryan] Getzlaf, [Corey] Perry and either [Dustin] Penner or whoever [in Anaheim], and they just controlled the puck below the circles," Boudreau said. "I don't see why these three can't do the same."
Boudreau would like to find four consistent lines after spending weeks tinkering with three of them.
"I was up all night and I was rushed all morning because I still couldn't figure anything out," Boudreau said. "You try to find the perfect fit and the perfect fit might never be there, but there's reasons why we do everything to find something right now, and hopefully by the 10-game mark we could solidify our lines going into the playoffs."
Sunday will be the first time since the Hanzal/White acquisitions that the Wild has its full lineup together. Boudreau's intrigued to see how the full group meshes, although the red-hot Pacific Division-leading Sharks aren't an easy opponent to experiment against.
"You have to put it all together." Parise said. "We are going to continue to try to do that and work and find some line combinations that hopefully we can stick with."
Chicago won its seventh game in a row Saturday and moved a point ahead of the Wild in the Western Division.
"Chicago keeps winning, and we want to stay ahead of them, so we have to make sure that we're sharp," Parise said.