NEWARK, N.J. — Alex Goligoski runs through the Wild's defensive strategy before he takes to the ice, but that's not where he'd like his head to be when he's playing.
"You just want to get to a place where you're not thinking at all when you get out there," he said. "It can take a little while with old habits, especially if you're doing different stuff as a defenseman in the defensive zone. It's reps and it takes a little time."
After five years with Arizona, Goligoski is barely a month into his first season with the Wild and the transition has looked seamless — even if he is still processing the changes.
The veteran NHLer, and Grand Rapids native and former Gophers standout, has stepped into a high-profile role on defense and helped the Wild score goals.
"Just trying to play in the offensive zone," Goligoski said, "and get the puck to places where guys have time to make plays and get pucks to the net."
Goligoski has been particularly active in that area the past week, assisting on five goals over the three games leading to the Wild's road trip finale on Wednesday at New Jersey.
During the nine games he played after returning from an upper-body injury earlier this month, Goligoski racked up a goal and eight assists. After his third multi-point game of the season Sunday vs. Tampa Bay, the 36-year-old hit (and then surpassed) 10 assists in 15 games.
Only one other defenseman in franchise history has reached that plateau in fewer games: Ryan Suter, who twice recorded 10 assists in 14 games (2015-16 and 2018-19).
A free agent last offseason, Goligoski was brought in by the Wild to replace Suter after the team bought out Suter's contract.
Not only has Goligoski helped fill Suter's void on offense, he's also stepped into Suter's former seat on the top pairing.
Until captain Jared Spurgeon recently suffered a lower-body injury that'll keep him out week to week, the two had been a steady duo for the Wild.
"He's been great," Goligoski said. "Very easy guy to play with. Just so smart and always in the right spot."
Even with a new partner for the time being — Goligoski has been playing with Jon Merrill while Spurgeon's been unavailable — the quest to adapt to the Wild's ways continues.
"It's just reps and time," said Goligoski, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Wild. "I'll keep getting more and more comfortable."
Fun in the sun
The Wild remained in Tampa after playing Sunday, taking a break Monday and then skating at the Lightning's practice facility on Tuesday before flying up the East Coast.
"To get a day off with nice weather and be able to enjoy it with the guys is refreshing," Goligoski said.
Players spent some of the down time at the beach and attended the "Monday Night Football" game between the Buccaneers and Giants at Raymond James Stadium, with the rookies dressing up as pirates.
"We fit right in," center Nico Sturm said. "It was pretty cool."
The Wild has teamed up with the Prairie Island Indian Community to celebrate Native American Heritage Day on Friday, and players will wear jerseys with a specially designed Dakota emblem and writing during the pregame warm-up vs. the Jets at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa's press box at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines has been named the Tom Kurvers Memorial Press box in dedication to Kurvers, the former Iowa Wild GM and Wild assistant GM who died from lung cancer last summer.
Delayed puck drop
The start time of Wednesday's game against the Devils was pushed back to 7:33 p.m. local time after players did not arrive at Prudential Center until 6:26 p.m. due to the closure of the Holland Tunnel, the Wild said in a statement on Twitter. The game officially started at 7:32 p.m.
Puck drop was initially set for 7 p.m.