The Wild isn't just down a forward while Marcus Foligno heals up.
Until the winger returns to action, the team is also missing one of its top goal scorers, a regular on the penalty kill, another option for the power play, its best sparkplug, and a leader on and off the ice.
"That's not a guy you really replace," center Nick Bonino said. "Whenever someone goes down, as long as I've been playing, you try and do it by committee. Different guys will have to step up. He's a guy that wants to be out here, probably kills him not to be, so we'll work hard for him when he's out for sure."
Foligno has been sidelined since taking a Jonas Brodin shot off his lower right leg Friday, and he won't be back anytime soon.
Before he got hurt, Foligno was on a roll — scoring five times and adding seven assists in his previous 11 appearances to sit at 199 career points.
"He's going to be greatly missed," captain Jared Spurgeon said. "But we have guys that are going to be stepping up in those roles, whether it be the penalty kill or 5-on-5 and even power play and net-front stuff. It's tough to replace a guy like that, but we're going to do our best to try."
Professional and prepared
One player who can help pick up the slack on the penalty kill while Foligno is absent is Nico Sturm, who has been a shorthanded specialist for the Wild all season.
"Even though you're on the penalty kill, we try to determine what we give them," Sturm said. "It starts with the forecheck. You kind of gotta read how many guys do they have back. Do they stretch guys? That's your first read, and then maybe you can determine if you can maybe pressure a little bit higher."
That attentiveness Sturm brings to the PK has carried over into his 5-on-5 play, where he's been a steady presence on the fourth line at left wing despite previously playing at center.
"He's such an energy guy and such a straight-line player that has great speed and great size," coach Dean Evason said. "So, for him to get in on the forecheck first as opposed to third makes a big difference. He can go in there and create havoc."
What also seems to be helping Sturm settle into his rookie season is his work ethic, a professionalism that was clear when he made his NHL debut out of Clarkson University in 2019 and when he was ushered into the playoffs last year after spending most of the season in the minors.
"You see him in the hotels on the road, and he's always in the gym," Evason said. "No stone is unturned with his preparation before he steps on the ice and the puck is dropped. He set himself up to be physically and mentally prepared. He's always asking questions. He's just sucking in knowledge from videos [and] from the coaches."
Arizona forward Tyler Pitlick was able to secure a few tickets for Sunday's game, but usually he has a "whole bunch of people" at Xcel Energy Center when he plays the Wild.
The smaller turnout was just one example of how this trip home has been different, with restrictions on attendance and NHL protocols limiting players' movement because of the pandemic.
"It's weird to come back to Minnesota and not be able to see your parents," the former Centennial High School player said.
In the system
Wild prospect Nikita Nesterenko was named one of Hockey East's Co-Rookies of the Year after the Boston College forward led Hockey East freshmen in goals (seven), assists (11) and points (18).
Another BC player, former Wild first-round pick Matt Boldy, was a first-team All-Hockey East forward.