In September, Nick Bjugstad was traded to the Wild from Pittsburgh in a homecoming for the former Blaine and Gophers standout. On Sunday, he will play his first playoff game for his home-state team when the Wild opens its first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
"It's very exciting. This is the time of year — that's why you play," Bjugstad said Saturday. "This is a team I want to go to battle with every night. They've been so much fun to play with."
Bjugstad will be on a line with veteran Nick Bonino and rookie Nico Sturm, a group that's given the Wild a jolt of energy.
"That line, hopefully it's going to be a factor in games and in the series," Wild coach Dean Evason said. "They are all big, strong. They're all natural center-icemen that can take faceoffs. … All of them have contributed offensively throughout the season."
Bjugstad has played in 44 games this season, collecting six goals and 11 assists. Sunday's game will be his 10th career playoff contest and his first since 2019 with Pittsburgh. In 2016, he played five games for Florida, scoring two goals and assisting on two for his only playoff points. He's eager to get another chance in the postseason but doesn't take too much from the fact that the Wild went 5-1-2 vs. Vegas in the regular season.
"It's a whole new season, a whole new style of game, a whole new energy," Bjugstad said. "It's got to be the mentality of who's going to outwork each other and want it more. Obviously, everyone wants it at this point, but there's another level of oomph when it comes to the playoffs.
"You've got to come in with the mentality that it's 0-0 and the harder-working team wins."
Evason expects to see that from the 6-6, 208-pounder, who returned to the lineup May 1 after being shelved 12 games because of an upper-body injury.
"Bjugy's done a real good job as far as the most exciting thing for us is his compete level, his grit level and his willingness to get to the front of the net," Evason said. "If he does that, he'll score goals because of his size and his skill set when he does get there."
Parise will sit
Zach Parise, the Wild's career leader in playoff goals (14) and assists (20), won't play in Game 1, Evason confirmed Saturday.
"Nothing's changed," said Evason, who had Parise as a healthy scratch in four of the past five games. "We really like the makeup of the Bonino line. … We had to make some decisions, and those were our decisions."
Parise, 36, had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games this season. He played in Thursday's regular-season finale at St. Louis as the Wild rested five skaters.
• Cam Talbot, as expected, will start in goal Sunday, Evason said. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer wouldn't reveal his starter.
• The last time DeBoer coached a playoff game in Las Vegas, he was leading the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the 2018 Western Conference semifinals. "I still wake up with a cold sweat remembering that game," he said, laughing. "I think we got wacked pretty good." Vegas beat DeBoer's Sharks 3-0 in a clinching Game 6. He took over as Golden Knights coach in January of 2020.