EDMONTON, ALBERTA – The Wild had all 30 players it is taking to Edmonton on the ice Sunday morning at Tria Rink in St. Paul before the team left for the Western Conference hub city, an encouraging sight for coach Dean Evason.
“To have everybody available to us is awesome,” he said.
While the team will usher only 20 players into action each game when its qualifying matchup with Vancouver begins Sunday at Rogers Place, the unusual nature of the NHL’s return could lead to more roster turnover.
“Clearly the circumstances could present itself where we could need more people,” Evason said Sunday during a video conference call. “Everybody has got to be available and ready, and hopefully we’ve done the right things to prepare everybody the same so if we need one, two, three, four guys to step in, then we’re expecting they will take that opportunity and embrace it and run with it.”
Evason isn’t expecting to have to make changes, but already he’s had to juggle roles in practice and scrimmages.
Although center Joel Eriksson Ek was back with the team Sunday, he was absent Friday and for part of Thursday’s session. Defenseman Matt Dumba was also missing Thursday before returning Friday.
Evason doesn’t have a depth chart in mind for the postseason, even though the Wild could be forced to be flexible.
Not only is the margin for error smaller in a five-game series, but the league is restarting while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing. The Wild is carrying four goalies, with Kaapo Kahkonen and Mat Robson the minor league call-ups in the mix. The team also added Iowa forwards Gerry Mayhew, Nico Sturm, Kyle Rau and Luke Johnson and defensemen Matt Bartkowski, Louie Belpedio and Brennan Menell.
“I think it would be premature to say, ‘So and so is going to go in 100 percent,’ ” Evason said. “It honestly depends on who’s out or the situation, and then we will communicate as a staff and make the right call.”
Not everyone on the Wild said goodbye to his family Sunday before the team departed for Edmonton.
Some, such as defenseman Jared Spurgeon and winger Marcus Foligno, bid adieu before training camp started since their families stayed in Canada, where they typically spend their summers, while the players returned to Minnesota.
“I think that lights a fire under your belly a little bit more, just to go there and do well and make sure this distance’s not for nothing,” Foligno said.
What made the farewell tougher for Spurgeon’s family is the fact his wife and children are in Edmonton, Spurgeon’s hometown. Families, however, can join players in the bubble starting at the conference finals, which will be in Edmonton. Rogers Place will also host the Stanley Cup Final.
“They are a little confused as to why they can’t come and hang out with me,” Spurgeon said. “If we do get to the point that we’re hoping to, they’ll be able to come and enjoy it as well. It will be worth it at the end for sure.”