ANAHEIM, CALIF. – The ice inside Honda Center on Friday was crowded with players, one of the most well-attended Wild practices of the season.
But it's unclear if the team will get a similar turnout Saturday when the Wild finishes off a two-game series against the Ducks.
After welcoming back goalie Cam Talbot, defensemen Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt and center Victor Rask from the NHL's COVID protocols, the team is going to wait until Saturday morning to determine its lineup.
Talbot won't be ready to suit up, but coach Dean Evason wanted to check in with the others on game day before deciding.
"We're OK with it as long as the player obviously feels comfortable with coming in," Evason said.
When everyone is back, it will be the closest the Wild has been to full strength this season — goaltender Alex Stalock remains out indefinitely because of an upper-body injury — and already the team is feeling encouraged by the spike in numbers.
"It's exciting for the group," Evason said. "I think we have a real good feel in the room now, and I don't want to discredit the guys that played. The guys that were playing for us that got called up, they gave everything that they had and we fully understand and believe that we're going to have to use a lot of people again.
"We were prepared for this at the start of the year. They conducted themselves very well. But I think there is a feel because you do have the people that were in that room prior back in it. So I think there's an excitement level for the guys."
The five players who joined practice Friday arrived in Anaheim on Thursday evening after flying on a private plane; Kyle Rau, who was also in the protocols, traveled, too.
Only one Wild player remains on the NHL's COVID list, goalie Andrew Hammond, who entered the protocols Thursday. But Evason said he isn't concerned about Hammond's addition becoming an issue for the team. Dereck Baribeau will continue to back up Kaapo Kahkonen until Talbot signals he can play.
"As a player, it's a little bit easier," said Talbot, who was asymptomatic while in the COVID protocols. "You can kind of work your way up in minutes and that kind of thing. If a goalie goes in and starts and he's not ready, it can be detrimental to the team. I'm trying not to put a timeline on it right now."
Once Brodin, Soucy and Hunt are available, the Wild will have a surplus on defense that could force rookie Calen Addison back to the minors. But on Friday, he continued to skate alongside Ryan Suter — a pairing that might stay together Saturday if the Wild doesn't get the green light from some combination of Brodin, Soucy and Hunt.
"He's conducted himself very well," Evason said of Addison, "and we feel real good about where he is at."
Up front, Rask could be the odd man out even if he is up to speed; the Wild scrambled its lines again Friday, including moving Ryan Hartman to center. He worked with Zach Parise and Marcus Foligno after opening the scoring for the Wild in the 3-1 victory over the Ducks on Thursday.
"We feel comfortable with putting him at all three positions," Evason said. "He's killed penalties for us very well. He's played an energy role but yet has produced as well. His goal [Thursday] night was real nice."
And Mats Zuccarello is set to get a look alongside rookie Kirill Kaprizov and center Marcus Johansson as he continues to settle in after missing the first 11 games following offseason arm surgery. Zuccarello registered his first point of the season Thursday, setting up the game-winning goal by Kevin Fiala.
"My timing and the puck feel is still a little bit off," Zuccarello said. "That's just going to come by playing games, I think. But other than that, I feel good."
The opportunity to roll out its deepest lineup is coming, and that might be the best chance for the Wild to capitalize on the games at-hand it picked up when a COVID-19 outbreak stalled the season.
Regardless, it will probably give the clearest indication of the team's potential.
"It's going to be great to get back in there personally and play behind our full roster for the first time all season," Talbot said. "I'm really looking forward to building toward that."