Mats Zuccarello relaxed in Mexico.
Same with Jason Zucker, who pretty much didn’t use his cellphone unless he was snapping pictures of his kids swimming.
“It’s nice just to wake up and not have anywhere to be and spend some time with the family,” he said.
Ryan Hartman also shifted his focus elsewhere, catching only a snippet of the end of one hockey game on his cellphone.
“I was worried about what we had the next day, and that was either the pool or the beach,” said Hartman, whose souvenir from his Mexican getaway was a sunburned nose.
Wild players took full advantage of the NHL All-Star break and subsequent bye week, using the eight-day hiatus to unplug from hockey and recharge by letting their attention drift to the sunshine, golf and their families.
But when the group returns to action Saturday at home against Boston, players don’t anticipate having any trouble recapturing the urgency of a playoff race in which the Wild is trailing.
“I hope it’s not tough for any of them to get back into it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I hope they’re hungry.”
The Wild embarked on the break five points shy of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. That gap grew to six points Friday night, hours after the team reconvened for practice Friday afernoon at Xcel Energy Center — a busy, battle-heavy, hour-plus session that wrapped with snow shavings flying as players skated back and forth over center ice.
“I wanted to get them used to the physical part of the game again,” Boudreau said.
The Wild also returns from break with one more team it has to jump to get to a playoff spot.
Two victories by Nashville catapulted the Predators past the Wild, putting four teams ahead instead of three for that last invite. But all the teams directly above the Wild, except for the Predators, have played more games, an opportunity for the Wild to move closer if the team takes care of its own business.
“It’s all up to us,” Hartman said. “We’ve got to do our job, and that’s winning hockey games. If we’re winning hockey games, it’s all going to sort itself out.”
Although its 32-game trek to the finish line starts with an Eastern Conference foe in the Bruins, the Wild’s ensuing schedule is heavy with division rivals and West opponents.
And that slate also could help the Wild rediscover the intensity of the season after a lengthy layoff, especially considering teams’ fates can be decided during this part of the calendar.
The Wild’s fate was decided down the stretch last season; with 55 points, the group sat third in the Central Division going into the 2019 break. But when it resumed playing, the team fell out of contention after dropping four in a row and sputtering 1-6-3 after returning.
This year, though, the Wild isn’t trying to protect a berth.
It’s trying to grab one.
“I actually think that’s a good side to be on because it gives us that urgency to push and not just hold on and know that we’re in a spot and win a game here and there,” Zucker said. “We’ve got to catch up. We have to start stringing some wins together, especially the games with teams that are right above us.”
Sarah McLellan covers the Wild and the NHL for the Star Tribune. email@example.com.