Two games into the playoffs and the Wild has tapped into the depth that helped it reach this point of the season.
After a series-opening 4-0 clunker to the Blues on Monday, the Wild switched up its lineup on Wednesday for Game 2 at Xcel Energy Center by substituting Alex Goligoski in on defense for Dmitry Kulikov.
"It's the best time of the year," said Goligoski, who is in his first season with the Wild and signed a two-year, $4 million contract extension in March. "Every player on every team wants to be playing right now. So, it's just go out there and have fun and compete.
"I've played these games before, so it's about competing and working and really just having fun out there."
The Grand Rapids, Minn., native is actually one of only two Stanley Cup champions on the Wild roster. Goligoski and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury won with the Penguins in 2009.
Since then, the 36-year-old Goligoski has been in the playoffs four other times before this year. His last appearance came in 2020 with the Coyotes when they won a qualifying series before losing to the Avalanche in five games while the NHL played the postseason in a bubble.
"He's a veteran guy that's been through a lot of playoff experience," Wild coach Dean Evason said. "So, he can bring a lot to our group on the ice obviously offensively [and] puck moving. But he brings a lot off the ice, as well: a calm demeanor [and] a leadership quality that he's provided for us all year."
What didn't change for the Wild was its starting goaltender, with Evason mentioning it was an "easy decision" to keep Fleury in net after his 27-save effort in Game 1.
"There was no goals that were a direct result of Marc-Andre Fleury, that's for sure," Evason said. "He made first saves on all of them, I think, and had to make two, three after that. It's on us as a team to clear those rebounds, get pucks away from the net and get people away from the net."
Plenty of experience
Tyson Jost is in his first playoffs with the Wild, but he's no stranger to postseason hockey.
Before joining the Wild from Colorado in a March 15 trade for Nico Sturm, the 24-year-old forward skated in 40 playoff games. This history includes a four-game sweep of St. Louis last year.
"I've made the playoffs every year I've been in the NHL," Jost said. "So, yeah, experience goes a long way and I'm just trying to be vocal in the dressing room and on the bench and whatnot. I've been in different scenarios, and I've kind of seen a lot.
"But at the same time, I want to take that next step and have more success in the playoffs."
The Wild has nominated defenseman Matt Dumba for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which honors the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and has contributed to the community.
Dumba previously won the award in 2020 for his commitment to racial and social justice; he helped create the Hockey Diversity Alliance in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.
All 32 teams selected a player, and a committee of NHL executives will pick a winner. The first-place finisher will receive a $25,000 donation to benefit a charity or charities of his choice.