Four seasons and three teams ago was the last time Cam Talbot handled the typical workload for a starting NHL goalie.
In 2018-19, he was a No. 1 before getting phased out of Edmonton's plans and traded to Philadelphia, where he played sparingly. He eventually got in a groove with Calgary the following year, but league play was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And when he made his Wild debut last season, the schedule was scaled back to 56 regular-season games.
Now, a normal 82-game marathon is on deck and although Talbot could be in store for a busier itinerary than he's had recently, the 34-year-old netminder believes the more action he's faced, the better he's performed.
"I feel my best when I'm rolling," Talbot said. "You don't really get a chance to think. You just go out there and play. Whether it's a good night the night before or even a rough one, it's even better to get back in there and put it behind you and get another solid start under your belt.
"For me, I like playing as much as possible. But I know in an 82-game season with travel, it's a grind. Just going to have to manage it as we go."
Talbot received a preview of what's to come Thursday, making his first appearance of the preseason at Colorado after a strong start to his Wild career.
After the team signed him to a three-year, $11 million contract to replace Devan Dubnyk and become its new No. 1, Talbot justified his return to the starting goalie ranks by going 19-8-5 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He was even sharper in the playoffs, with a .923 save percentage and two shutouts in the seven-game loss to Vegas.
"I thought overall my game was pretty consistent, and that's what I try to do," said Talbot, who's reunited with backup Kaapo Kahkonen. "I never try to get too high or too low. I hope there's no peaks or valleys in my season."
Not since 2017-18 has Talbot played more than 35 games in a season, but his résumé supports the idea he thrives under the pressure of more pucks.
He had a 2.55 goals-against average to go along with a .917 save percentage in 56 games during his first season as a starter with the Oilers. And when he logged a league-high 73 games in 2016-17, Talbot tied for the most wins in the NHL with 42 and posted a career-high seven shutouts.
"If I can stay consistent and go out there and give us a chance to win on most nights, then that's what I'm looking for," Talbot said. "I'm not looking for three or four really good games and then hit a lull. I try to stay as even-keel as possible, and I try to get that to carry over into my game and my play night in and night out."
Jordan Greenway was supposed to play Thursday against the Avalanche but was sent home sick with an illness coach Dean Evason said he didn't believe was COVID-19.
Adam Beckman replaced Greenway in the lineup, this after the winger scored twice in the team's preseason opener last week.
One of a handful of prospects vying for a job with the Wild, Beckman skated in Kirill Kaprizov's spot on the team's top line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Mats Zuccarello. The Wild wanted to give Kaprizov more time to prepare since he was off the ice leading up to camp while finalizing a new five-year, $45 million contract.
The Wild made another round of roster cuts, reducing its roster to 34 players.
Assigned to Iowa in the American Hockey League were goalies Dereck Baribeau and Hunter Jones, and forwards Will Bitten, Mitchell Chaffee, Joseph Cramarossa, Damien Giroux, Ivan Lodnia, Nick Swaney and Dominic Turgeon. The team released defensemen Turner Ottenbreit, Doyle Somerby and Keaton Thompson from their professional tryouts and they will report to Iowa's training camp.