Cam Talbot moved closer to the action Saturday, taking a seat on the Wild's bench to back up Kaapo Kahkonen after missing three games with injury.
By Sunday, he could be between the pipes when the Wild and Avalanche finish a back-to-back.
"I feel good out there, and I'm ready to go whenever they need me," Talbot said.
The Wild's new No. 1 goaltender was hurt Jan. 22 in the team's home opener vs. San Jose, leaving the game ahead of the second period with a lower-body injury that Talbot called a fluke.
"The puck just got tipped into an area with limited padding," he recalled. "Just one of those things that shocked my leg for a minute and couldn't really get up. [I] tried to battle it out through the rest of the first period there and kill off that power play and get to the intermission. Then when I came back out, my leg kind of tightened up a little bit and thought it'd be detrimental to the team if I stayed in."
Before he was injured, Talbot began his Wild tenure on a roll.
He won two of his three starts on the team's season-opening, four-game road trip, stopping 98 of 106 shots for a .925 save percentage before he was sidelined.
"It was very frustrating," said Talbot, who signed a three-year, $11 million contract in the offseason. "I'd started about as well as I hoped to start behind a new group like this and get to know the guys. Then you take a week off from the guys [and] you kind of lose what you built over the first few weeks. Just happy to get back out there with the guys."
COVID sends Rossi home
Prospect Marco Rossi has returned to his native Austria to rest with his family because of complications from COVID-19, and there is no timetable for his return.
Before the season started, the Wild announced Rossi was out indefinitely with an upper-body injury — an issue the team learned of when Rossi reported to Minnesota after competing in the IIHF World Junior Championship. The center was expected to compete for a roster spot during training camp.
The ninth overall pick in last year's draft, Rossi was sidelined with COVID-19 while playing for ZSC Lions in Switzerland before reporting to the World Juniors bubble in December.
In its first test without winger Kevin Fiala, who began serving a three-game suspension for boarding, the Wild opted to go with 11 forwards and add a seventh defenseman in Brad Hunt to its lineup.
Although the Wild previously skated Hunt as a forward on the fourth line when Nico Sturm missed two games last weekend with illness, coach Dean Evason anticipated using Hunt on the blue line and the power play.
"Any time somebody goes down or is out of your lineup, somebody gets an opportunity to step up," Evason said. "So, Kevin's a part of our team. We'll miss him, for sure. But we are excited that maybe some people will get a little more ice time and some people will get maybe some different looks."
Defenseman Ian Cole has ditched hotel living for a more permanent setup in the Twin Cities after being acquired in a Jan. 19 trade from the Avalanche.
Cole is renting Edina native and Islanders captain Anders Lee's house.
"A little Notre Dame connection there," Cole said, referring to where both played college hockey. "It's nice to know nice people."
Once this four-game series shifts to Colorado, Cole will be able to pack up some personal items to have with him in Minnesota.
"The Wild are going to ship a car back for me, so I don't have to be in a rental car for the whole season," Cole said. "I'll fill that to the brim and hopefully get some warm coats back here."
New year, new reputation
Colorado is the first team the Wild has faced this season that finished above it in the standings last season, with previous foes Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose ranking in the bottom three of the Western Conference in 2019-20.
And although the Wild prevailed in most of those matchups, winning five out of eight games so far against the California squads, Evason doesn't believe what happened in the past affects the future.
"We all judge off of last year, which I think is extremely unfair because we are all different teams," he said. "You look at our group and we're a different hockey club. Every year is different, and it's day by day. When we're facing an opponent, we don't see where they finished last year. That means nothing to us, absolutely nothing."