DENVER – The Wild's routine around the rink has changed.
Masking up and staying socially distanced off the ice are now embedded in players' daily activities, like team meetings and pregame skates.
But the threat of the coronavirus still looms, a reality that hit close to home for the Wild recently when the team had its first active player in winger Marcus Foligno sidelined by the NHL's COVID protocols.
"It just shows no matter how careful you are there's always a chance it can happen," captain Jared Spurgeon said during a virtual interview. "As a group, we've all been pretty respectful and responsible with giving ourselves space and wearing our masks whenever we're supposed to and around each other. He's a big part of our team, but we're just taking it day by day and hoping it ends there."
Foligno remained in the league's protocols Tuesday, the third day he's had a COVID protocols related absence, and he'll be away from the team until he's removed from the NHL's list.
That rundown has included players from all but five teams (Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, St. Louis and Toronto) since the league began announcing daily updates when the season opened three weeks ago, and the NHL has postponed 18 games.
"You can see with other teams that it seems to be one or two players and then it either stops there or you keep counting with players popping up," Spurgeon said.
Rossi back in Austria
The fallout from player absences is immediate, but the Wild is also experiencing a situation where the impact on a player lingers.
Prospect Marco Rossi was sidelined with COVID-19 in November and just recently returned to his native Austria to rest due to complications with the virus.
Rossi reported to Minnesota after skating in the IIHF World Junior Championship to compete for a roster spot at training camp, but doctors "saw something" during his testing, Rossi's agent Serge Payer said, and Rossi never got to audition.
"It was a shock to everybody, especially him," Payer said. "He was extremely motivated to come to camp."
Since then, Rossi has received positive results and he's motivated to resume training once he's able. He tweeted on Monday that he will come back stronger.
"Marco has recently had some good tests," Payer said, "and we're very optimistic that this is a temporary situation."
The Wild is being mindful of keeping goalies Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen spaced out off the ice.
"They cannot eat together," coach Dean Evason said. "They cannot hang out together. We want them separated as much as we can. In L.A., we saw them chatting, waiting for a bus, and we had [goaltender coach] Freddie Chabot go over and tell them, 'Get away from each other' because you don't want that situation.
"Obviously, it goes to the quarterback situations in the NFL.''
Ready to go
Sunday was the first time the Wild had to usher some of its reserves into action, promoting forwards Gerald Mayhew, Kyle Rau and Luke Johnson from the taxi squad to the lineup, and all three skated in a second straight game Tuesday.
But while they were idle, the three players remained around the Wild and followed a similar practice schedule.
"There's going to be injuries," Mayhew said. "There's going to be COVID, and we're going to get a chance to play this year. It's just when you're called upon you've got to be ready."
Winger Marcus Johansson (upper body) did not make the trip to Colorado.