When the Wild returned to Xcel Energy Center to start this season, prep work for a matchup against Vegas was set up in the coaches' quarters.
But the staff wasn't getting a head start on the team's March schedule.
The scouting report was for a March 12, 2020, game between the Wild and Golden Knights that never happened. That was the day the NHL and the rest of the sports world shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We had our board set up and everything ready to go, the video presentations were all done, and we're ready," coach Dean Evason said. "Literally, we went out and told the guys, 'You've got to get out of the rink.' So, yeah, it was really weird. And then when we first came back here, Vegas' lineup was on the board. All our charts were there. It was a really weird situation, for sure, and one that hopefully we'll never see again."
The Wild did eventually play host to Vegas, with the two-game series wrapping up Wednesday, but life at the arena has been different ever since last season came to a standstill.
"It was an eerie feeling," winger Marcus Foligno recalled. "It's one of those things where it felt like we were having a snow day almost and hopefully be back the next day. That wasn't the case, and here we are a year later."
Players continue to undergo daily COVID-19 testing, coaches wear masks on the bench and stalls are spaced out in the locker room. The Wild has had this season interrupted, too, with an outbreak affecting more than half the roster, pausing games for almost two weeks.
But since then, the team has been back up and running — rediscovering its new normal.
"There's just so much work that's gone into this year," Foligno said. "I think it's been a little bit of an eye-opener for every player to see what goes on. Obviously, protocols are protocols but on a daily basis, a lot of people work hard for us and make sure things go smoothly so we can play the game. It's been, from a player's standpoint and the way the team has reacted to it, it's been a big positive thing for us."
Nick Bjugstad has played up and down the Wild's depth chart this season, and now he's back in a prominent role — centering rookie Kirill Kaprizov and veteran Mats Zuccarello.
The three also crossed paths last Friday in Arizona, with Kaprizov's behind-the-back pass setting up a Bjugstad goal.
"I want to play down low and try to forecheck the 'D' and come up with pucks for these guys and let them kind of do the work and get open when I can," Bjugstad said. "Obviously, it worked the one game on the line change [at Arizona]. It's just getting familiar and understanding that we all have different skill sets. Those two are very cerebral. They want to make plays, and they do make a lot of plays. So I gotta get open and find ways to create a little space for them."
During its pregame strategy session Wednesday morning, assistant coach Bob Woods gave a presentation on faceoffs after the Golden Knights had the edge in draws Monday — including the two to begin Wild power plays.
At the heart of Woods' message was wingers and defensemen need to be swooping in to scoop up loose pucks.
"They won a lot of pucks by just being engaged right away off the faceoff and get their stick on the puck and kick it back," Evason said of Vegas' effort. "If we had our sticks and we were ready, we would have won those faceoffs and then obviously it would have looked better stat-wise for the center-ice men."