ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Getting cleared from the NHL's COVID protocols didn't just pave the way for Wild center Nick Bonino's return to hockey.
He also got to be around people again.
"Just happy to have some interaction with humans," Bonino said.
The Wild continues to rebound from a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined more than half the roster, with Jonas Brodin, Victor Rask, Carson Soucy and Cam Talbot getting removed from the COVID list Thursday. Goalie Andrew Hammond was added. Being in the protocols can be the result of several factors including a positive test, unconfirmed positive test or contact tracing.
With Hammond unavailable, the Wild promoted Dereck Baribeau from the taxi squad and he backed up Kaapo Kahkonen against the Ducks.
Bonino, defenseman Ian Cole, captain Jared Spurgeon and winger Nico Sturm were also in the lineup Thursday, their first games since leaving the protocols, and that meant accelerating into a familiar routine after life came to a standstill.
"The worst part was sitting around and then when you're finally allowed to go for a walk and get your heart rate up to 100, it's minus-10 out," Cole said. "It's not exactly an appealing situation to be in."
Like Spurgeon, Bonino went into the protocols on the same day the NHL shut down the Wild — a pause that came on Feb. 3 while the team was in Colorado.
After arriving back in the Twin Cities the next day, Bonino went straight to a hotel room where he stayed until this past Sunday. On Monday, he was cleared and flew with the team to California for a five-game road trip.
"A couple of days that were pretty tough there with some symptoms," Bonino said. "For the most part, just making sure we kept our heart rate down. I didn't really leave a chair or a bed. Just sat there and killed time."
Spurgeon isolated at home, "hiding out in the basement," and was sapped of energy for the first four days. He was also healing up an upper-body injury suffered in the Wild's final game before the season stopped.
"Not much to do," said Spurgeon, who watched quite a bit of television. "I could hear the kids yelling every once in a while. I couldn't unlock that door."
Before leaving for California with the team, Bonino and Cole were at the hospital going through tests to get released from the COVID list. And while they expect to be tired as they resume the season, they felt their future concerns were addressed with the steps they took to get back on the ice.
"I'm sure there will be short-term effects," Cole said. "As far as long-term effects, our doctors and our training staff did a great job going through the full testing regiment, went through the full gamut to get back. As far as long term goes, I think they checked that box that everything looks good and everything looks safe. Obviously, if it's mild fatigue or mild windedness, it's certainly something that's going to work itself out."
Winger Jordan Greenway wore a pair of Willie O'Ree-themed skates during warmups ahead of Thursday's game to celebrate Black History Month.
Bauer partnered with former Wild player J.T. Brown, Toronto's Wayne Simmonds, NHL agent Eustace King and designer Terry Smith to recognize O'Ree, the NHL's first Black player, with these custom skates.
The skates, which were worn by players around the league, will be auctioned off by the NHL to benefit Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit dedicated to uniting Black women in hockey.
Despite getting veterans Spurgeon and Cole back, the Wild didn't break up the defensive pair of Ryan Suter and Calen Addison — keeping the rookie in the lineup after he skated nearly 20 minutes in his NHL debut Tuesday in the 4-0 loss to the Kings.
"Obviously we liked Addison's game," coach Dean Evason said, "but we really liked the way Ryan Suter was leading and communicating with him. They had a nice chemistry."
Dakota Mermis also remained in action next to Matt Dumba.
"He played a sound, simple game but yet he had some opportunities where he jumped into the play as well," Evason said of Mermis. "We were very happy with his game."
•When Spurgeon sat out the game Tuesday, the Wild made winger Marcus Foligno the third alternate captain.
•The Wild assigned defenseman Matt Bartkowski and forward Gerald Mayhew from the active roster to the taxi squad and sent defenseman Louie Belpedio and forwards Joseph Cramarossa and Mason Shaw from the taxi squad to the American Hockey League.