The Wild didn't anticipate having defenseman Jonas Brodin in the Winter Classic, and that's exactly what happened.
Brodin, who like all Wild players is vaccinated for COVID-19, tested positive Monday and was placed into the NHL's COVID protocols on Tuesday after his test result was confirmed positive.
A day later, the NHL shortened the isolation period for positive cases to five days, creating the possibility Brodin might be available to play if he met certain testing requirements and received medical clearance from the team doctor. But Brodin remained idle on Saturday vs. the Blues at Target Field.
"I just know his numbers weren't correct in order for not only the National Hockey League but for him health-wise to come back in tonight's game," coach Dean Evason said after the Wild's 6-4 loss.
Rookie Calen Addison, whom the Wild recalled from Iowa in the American Hockey League after Brodin went into the protocols, filled out the defense.
Addison lined up alongside Jon Merrill, while Matt Dumba teamed up with Alex Goligoski on the Wild's top pairing. Jordie Benn and Dmitry Kulikov remained the other duo.
Dumba played a game-high 26 minutes, 22 seconds, and Goligoski logged 25:03.
Up front, Jordan Greenway returned to the lineup after missing one game because of a lower-body injury.
This was the second outdoor game Brodin has missed with the Wild. He was also out for the 2016 Stadium Series game against the Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium because of a broken foot. Dumba was the only player in action for the Wild in the Winter Classic who also skated for the team in its previous outdoor game.
"I talked to [Brodin] a little bit," Dumba said Friday. "He's pretty disappointed I'm sure because he missed the last one too, the Stadium Series. So, he was really looking forward to this one."
Without Brodin, the Wild was down three regulars for the New Year's Day showcase.
Defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon (lower body) and center Joel Eriksson Ek (upper body) sat out because of injuries that are expected to sideline them for a couple weeks.
"I'm confident in this team," General Manager Bill Guerin said in the lead-up to the Winter Classic. "I am confident in the people that we have sitting in that dressing room. We've got some pretty big pieces that are out of the lineup right now. But it's an opportunity for other guys to step up.
"It's time for guys who are in the lineup every night regardless to pick up their game and fill in the holes. There's always an opportunity."
A to Z
With Spurgeon out, the Wild made Mats Zuccarello an alternate captain for the Winter Classic. Zuccarello joined Dumba and Marcus Foligno, who wear an 'A' on their jerseys full-time.
"He's brought everything," Evason said of Zuccarello, who was playing in his fourth outdoor game. "He's a veteran guy that's brought everything to the table. Clearly, he has a skill set that can produce points. What he has done for us is work his tail off this year from Day 1.
"He's got a voice in that room, and we thought it was very deserving."
Spurgeon and Eriksson Ek did get to suit up in Winter Classic gear on Friday for a team photo on the ice before the Wild's practice.
"It's a festive atmosphere," Evason said. "It's a team event. We want everybody involved."
Like he did in the Heritage Classic with the Oilers in 2016, Wild goalie Cam Talbot wore a knit hat on top of his mask during the game.
Many Wild players also donned eye black.
Talbot left the game after two periods, trailing 6-2, because of a lower body injury. Kaapo Kahkonen played the third period.