ANAHEIM, Calif. – A five-day break was supposed to begin Sunday after the Wild's two-game series in Anaheim, but a COVID-19 outbreak changed that plan.
Instead of going home, the Wild will stay on the road — with stops in San Jose and Colorado getting added as part of the team's revamped schedule to make up for the games postponed while the team was shut down by the NHL.
Now, an already compact season will get even tighter, a reality that puts practice time at odds with rest.
"We don't want to really practice because we don't want to wear the guys down," coach Dean Evason said. "We want to be fresh. And yet we need to practice because our guys have not practiced. We are kind of caught a little bit."
Before the outbreak, the Wild tended to stay away from the rink on nongame days. But since getting cleared to restart, the Wild has been on the practice ice at every opportunity. At some point, though, the team could start subbing these sessions for downtime — especially as the schedule picks up.
Not only did the retooled rundown extend this road trip, but it also features three more back-to-backs. Only once the rest of the way will the team have more than one day between games — a three-day buffer March 26-28.
"We want to rest," Evason said. "I don't think there's big enough value put in actually staying away from the arena. I think a lot of times we get caught up in, 'We need to have a meeting. We need to have a video. We need to do this.' Sometimes we need to forget about hockey and take a day to completely clear ourselves and come back ready. We are very aware of that."
Brodin, Rask return
Defenseman Jonas Brodin and center Victor Rask returned to the Wild lineup Saturday, their first game since getting cleared from the NHL's COVID protocols on Thursday.
Goalie Cam Talbot and defensemen Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt were also released from the COVID protocols on Thursday, but they didn't play against the Ducks.
The entire group practiced Friday after joining the team on the road in Anaheim, and Brodin felt better than he thought he would.
"I felt right away that I was ready to play," he said. "So, it's nice to be back."
Rask, who scored in the third period Saturday, took the place of center Marcus Johansson, who was out with an upper-body injury. Johansson practiced Friday but did miss some action Thursday after a fall to the ice.
Dereck Baribeau backed up Kaapo Kahkonen, and rookie Calen Addison remained in action, his third straight game for the Wild.
Goalie Andrew Hammond is the only Wild player still in the league's protocols.
When Mats Zuccarello scores a goal or sets one up, he isn't just benefiting the Wild.
For each point he records, the 33-year-old winger is donating 1,000 Norwegian Krone — which is worth more than $100 U.S. — to the Zuccarello Foundation, which supports grassroots sports in his native Norway. Companies are also matching his donation.
"It's for kids in Norway to be able to do sports," he said. "Sports around the world now, it's expensive. Not everyone can afford playing sports. I think what sports did for me and a lot of people … ot's sad that not everyone can afford."