RALEIGH, N.C. – Sunday night against Colorado, Sean Bergenheim is expected to play his sixth game with the Wild. Disregarding morning skates, the recently acquired Wild forward will have had one full practice with his new team since that trade from Florida.
Chris Stewart and Jordan Leopold could be playing their fourth games. They will have had no practices with their new team since being acquired Monday from Buffalo and Columbus, respectively.
“It’s that time of year,” Leopold said before the Wild faced Carolina on Friday night. “That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to get traded at the deadline.”
With the schedule so condensed these days, not to mention the four CBA-mandated days off per month, teams barely practice this time of year. The Wild had games Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, was off Wednesday and won’t practice Saturday.
“Anyone who’s ever been traded, especially at the deadline, knows it’s not easy to come into the locker room and come in and play a sound game,” Leopold said. “You don’t know the personnel as much, you don’t know the systems as much. You’re really just out there trying to read and play hockey.”
“It’s not ideal,” Stewart agreed. “It would be nice to get a couple practices in so you could learn more about teammates and their habits. As hockey players, we’re a creature of habits. But it’s also good to get thrown into the fire. I’ll pick it up on the go. I have no choice.”
Coach Mike Yeo said the Wild is relying on video work and teaching moments in games to help Stewart, Bergenheim and Leopold along. Luckily, all three have been in the NHL a long time and on numerous teams, so they should adjust quickly.
“I think the biggest thing when you get into a new locker room, you have to try to find where you fit in,” Leopold, traded eight times, said. “I know a lot of guys in here. I don’t know all of them. You try to learn a couple names a day, really, because when you’re on the ice, you want to call people by name. It makes things a lot easier rather than yelling, ‘Hey,’ and, ‘I’m open.’
“Ninety percent of the teams play similar. There’s different little tweaks here or there system-wise. It’s just a matter of getting those tweaks down. If you simplify it and work in small segments, it tends to get easier and you can minimize mistakes.”
One of the toughest things is adjusting to life off the ice, too. Stewart, knowing he would assuredly be traded at the deadline, packed for Buffalo’s road trip with two or three weeks’ worth of clothes. His wife and 9-month-old twin boys are visiting for the upcoming three-game homestand and will hopefully be moving to Minnesota later this month.
“Beautiful family. It’s a good time in life, but I miss them,” Stewart said.
Veteran Thomas Vanek missed Friday’s game because of illness, so Nino Niederreiter, who missed Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury, returned on a line with Bergenheim and Mikko Koivu.
Koivu, Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle are the only Wild players to play all 65 games.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who is close to a return, missed his eighth game since suffering a concussion.
Mending in Iowa
Defenseman Gustav Olofsson’s first professional year in Iowa has been wrecked because of early-season shoulder surgery after one game, but the Wild hopes to get him back in a few weeks.
The 2013 second-round pick has started non-contact skating, although if Olofsson doesn’t feel completely comfortable once he takes contact, his return could be delayed.
“Everything has been positive so far regarding his recovery, but we’re not going to be rushing him,” assistant GM Brent Flahr said.
“It’s a shame. The injury set him back, but he has worked hard and hopefully can … have a big summer and come in strong next year.”