The door to the ice from the bench was shut, signaling everyone had arrived, but the Wild was far from its normal capacity.
Only 16 players skated Friday during the team's first practice at Xcel Energy Center since the NHL suspended the Wild's season and shuttered its facilities after a COVID-19 outbreak.
The taxi squad made up more than a third of Friday's attendees.
But with the Wild preparing for a Tuesday return at Los Angeles even though 12 players are still unavailable because of the NHL's COVID protocols, the look was a preview of the patchwork lineup the team is likely to roll out in its first game back.
"We're gonna have quite a few depth guys," General Manager Bill Guerin said. "We're very comfortable with it. These are guys that we've had either on our taxi squad or guys that were on the verge of call-ups, all guys that have created some good depth for us in the organization, and we're very comfortable doing what we have to do."
A chunk of the team's roster remains in the protocols. Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Jonas Brodin, Ian Cole, Joel Eriksson Ek, Brad Hunt, Marcus Johansson, Victor Rask, Carson Soucy, Jared Spurgeon, Nico Sturm and Cam Talbot were still listed as unavailable on Friday.
Team brass is expecting players to be released on an incremental basis to build up to the manpower needed for a 20-player lineup against the Kings, and it's possible the Wild sends players to California separate from the team plane. But Guerin said the Wild won't rely on someone who's symptomatic or not feeling well.
"We think it's situational," coach Dean Evason said. "We'll communicate with each individually as they come back. We're going to have guys trickling in and out. We have kind of a game plan of who we expect at a different day will at least be able to practice with us, but it could change. So, we'll go day to day and get our team ready to play when that puck's dropped."
Marcus Foligno was the first active Wild player to go into the protocols this season, on Jan. 31, and the first to rejoin the team, skating Friday alongside such regulars as Zach Parise, Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov.
Mats Zuccarello practiced for the first time since undergoing offseason arm surgery, and Matt Dumba was also back after missing two games before the pause following a nasty fall in a Jan. 30 game. He's ready to return.
"I can't believe how good he looks," Guerin said of Dumba. "He's flying around out there."
All six players on the taxi squad worked out, with the Wild receiving an exemption to add Calen Addison from the minors after Kyle Rau went into the COVID protocols.
The outbreak began with Foligno, who confirmed he tested positive and figured he contracted the virus by playing against Los Angeles since the Kings had one player (Andreas Athanasiou) go into the protocols during a two-game series Jan. 26-28 against the Wild. Foligno said his family tested negative, so he knew he didn't get sick at home.
"It's a guilty feeling, which is weird because you shouldn't feel guilt, but that's just how it is when you're the first one," Foligno said. "Everyone kind of sees your name pop up first and then the domino effect throughout the team. But whether guys had symptoms or didn't show positive until later after I did, it is what it is. We're playing through a pandemic. These things are going to happen."
On the day Foligno was placed into the protocols, he woke up achy and had chills and thought he was fatigued. He continued to feel aches and chills for another couple of days and was tired and had a head cold. Around Day 5, he felt better and anticipates needing a few sessions to get back up to speed.
"Lungs feel good. Heart feels good," said Foligno, who isn't concerned about any long-term effects. "Everything when it comes to energy is there. I'm in good shape, healthy, so I'm lucky for that."
New rules for combating a spread like the one the Wild experienced were in place when the team reconvened, with the glass taken out behind the benches and personnel getting the results of rapid COVID tests before getting on the ice.
The locker room has also been reconfigured to increase space between players, and the Wild is still figuring out its strategy for hosting meetings now that every conference must be virtual.
"We're not going to be able to stand over them and say, 'Do this. Do that,'" Evason said.
And although the NHL still hasn't announced makeup dates for the six games postponed during the Wild's hiatus, that's another change the team will have to confront in its return — a potentially compact schedule to catch up to other teams in the West Division.
"We just really have to take it in stride," Guerin said. "It probably won't be perfect, but it won't be that bad either. The good thing is that we've turned the corner and things are looking good for us moving forward and players are getting healthy, and that's the important thing right now."