EDMONTON – The Wild is more than a week into its preparation for its qualifying-round series with Vancouver, getting back on the ice Tuesday at Tria Rink in St. Paul after two days off.
But what the team has yet to get a feel for is what it’ll be like playing inside Rogers Place in Edmonton as part of a jam-packed daily slate of games in the NHL’s return-to-play tournament.
“We don’t know what it’s going to look like,” coach Dean Evason said Tuesday during a video conference call. “As long as we can have an open mind and acknowledge that your routine is not going to be your routine, there’s going to be curveballs thrown at us. But we have to be prepared for it and ready for it. But not only that but really get excited about it, get excited about, ‘There’s a change, great. I’m going to take that on as a challenge to get myself prepared no matter what happens.’
“Our group will embrace that, and that’s what we’re going to continue to talk about.”
The Wild’s first two games are the third and final contests scheduled for Aug. 2 and Aug. 4 at Rogers Place.
It seems unlikely puck drop for Game 1 will get delayed since the previous matchup is round-robin play with regular-season overtime rules in effect, but another qualifying-round showdown (beginning four hours earlier) precedes Game 2, and it could run late because it will continue until someone scores.
Evason said the team is trying to figure out whether to hold meetings at the hotel or during meals. He does expect, however, to have access to the locker room two to three hours before game time. But if that doesn’t happen, the team could do its video prep at the hotel and then walk over to the arena.
“We’re going to have to adjust,” Evason said.
That also applies to the ice conditions, which might not be as crisp for the third game of the day as for the first.
“If you’re the late game, you’re going to want to keep things simple late in periods, things like that,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “But that’s up to us. We’ll see when we get there.”
Back to work
The Wild’s power play went 6-for-37 under Evason in the regular season. The team isn’t making any systems changes in its return, but Evason said he wanted to see the intensity level increase during Tuesday’s special-teams session.
“One of the other issues that we had was quitting on the play,” he said. “… The ice was terrible at the end, just terrible because of the effort that was put into practice, so we didn’t want them to stop trying to make plays or stop trying to do things because the ice was bad. We’re going to Edmonton. There’s gonna be three games a day. The ice is going to be good, obviously, but it’s likely not going to be as good as it is on a nightly basis in the NHL. So just play through it.”
Of winger Zach Parise’s team-high 25 goals in the regular season, 12 came on the power play — which also leads the Wild. Overall, he scored four times in the team’s past six games.
“I felt like I did the best I could to stay sharp, stay in shape, work on some things during the break,” Parise said, “and I’m excited to come back and play and hopefully pick up where things left off.”
The Wild’s qualifying-round matchup and exhibition game July 29 against Colorado will be broadcast on Fox Sports North and KFAN (100.3 FM).
Fox Sports North’s telecast will originate from Xcel Energy Center, and on-air talent will work remotely for all games.
Puck drop for Game 1 is 9:30 p.m. Central time and 9:45 p.m. for Game 2, with the rest of the series to be determined.
Although the Wild didn’t practice Monday, the team gathered at Xcel Energy Center to hear Tru Pettigrew talk.
Pettigrew is an author and public speaker who specializes in leadership, inclusion and purpose. Evason was part of a Zoom call with Pettigrew earlier this summer along with other pro and Division I coaches in Minnesota and invited him to speak to the Wild.
“We’re trying to educate ourselves to do the best of our ability to eliminate racism completely,” Evason said. “That’s simply why we had a speaker come in to talk to the group. We’ve had some great communication with our team.”