Adjusting on the fly might be necessary for the Wild to handle the unusual circumstances of the 2021 season. It certainly was required to get through the first day of training camp.
Kevin Fiala wasn't on the ice for the start of Group A's skate Monday afternoon at Tria Rink in St. Paul and the young winger was turned away when he tried to join the action almost 40 minutes into the session.
Coach Dean Evason said Fiala's absence was "precautionary" and not for disciplinary reasons but didn't specify if the situation was related to testing or an injury.
Fiala did return as practice was breaking up, speaking to Evason before working with assistant coach Brett McLean and flinging shots on goalie Hunter Jones for approximately half an hour.
"It's great that a guy was kind of mad when we didn't let him out there for the end of practice," said Evason, who expects Fiala to participate Tuesday.
But without Fiala, the Wild couldn't debut all the forward lines the team would like to test run before the season opener Jan. 14 in Los Angeles. And that was a preview of the audibles the Wild might have to call as it navigates a shortened schedule in a pandemic.
"That's exactly what we talked about right from Day 1," Evason said on a video call with reporters after Groups A and B finished practicing. "We are going to have to be flexible. We are going to have to pop people in and out of the lineup. We anticipate that. Hopefully, we don't have to do it on a regular basis. But with everything that's going on, if we've learned anything, it's that nothing is going to be set in stone on a given day."
With Fiala unavailable, Evason slotted prospect Mason Shaw in Fiala's right-wing spot next to center Nick Bonino and left wing Marcus Johansson.
Although the Wild envisioned Johansson playing up the middle when the team acquired him in the Eric Staal trade with Buffalo in the offseason, Evason decided to start Johansson on the wing but figures he will rove — a versatility that could come in handy if the Wild needs to make a last-minute change.
One potential top-six line, however, did get reps: left winger Zach Parise worked with center Nick Bjugstad and right winger Kirill Kaprizov. In Group B, Joel Eriksson Ek centered Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno, and Victor Rask was between wingers Nico Sturm and Ryan Hartman.
This was Kaprizov's first official practice with the team since signing his two-year, entry-level contract with the organization in July and leaving Russia, but he had been skating with teammates in the lead-up to camp.
"He comes as advertised," new No.1 goalie Cam Talbot said. "He's obviously a dangerous offensive player, not only today but a couple times throughout the past week or so we've had our captain's practices. He can really fire the puck. He picks a spot and puts it wherever he kind of wants to, and he seems to be dangerous anytime he handles it.
"I know for a team that's been looking for scoring, I guess you could say, to have a guy like that come in and be able to put the puck in the net with relative ease by the looks of it is going to be a welcome sight for this group. Having him out there is going to be an extra threat and an extra dynamic for this team, and he looked good out there today."
Parise hopes his unit with Bjugstad and Kaprizov sticks together to develop a rhythm and believes the combination could be successful. At 6-6, Bjugstad offers size and a right shot — which Parise likes from a center — and Kaprizov's skill is unique.
"We'll do our best to help him along and make him feel as comfortable as we can and get him playing as well as he can because he's going to be a very good player," said Parise, who had a team-high 25 goals last season.
Still, don't be surprised if the Wild shuffles its look before it's go time.
Not only is the team searching for trios that click, but it's also integrating new players into the lineup. And it has only days, not weeks, to try to get everyone on the same page.
"We're not 100% of what we're going to do yet because we're not 100% sure who we're going to feel has chemistry with each other," Evason said.
"So, we're going to bounce around a little bit. Clearly, we'd love to have our four lines, our six 'D' set and ready to go and practicing systematically and all of that. But reality is that's probably not going to happen.
"So, the more flexible we can be as an organization, players, coaches, trainers, management, the better off we're going to be."