The Minnesota Wild failed to register a single goal in a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings. This game marked the first time the Wild hit the ice for an actual game since precisely two weeks ago, on Feb. 2.
The Wild had over a dozen players hit the NHL’s COVID protocol list during the past two weeks, forcing a handful of games to be postponed. Not everyone was back on the ice on Tuesday night, but there were enough healthy bodies to resume playing games. So, let’s take a look at how the Wild faired in their first game back after a full two-week break from games.
Wild Can’t Find the Back of the Net
The Wild got off to a slow start, only getting three shots on net in the first period versus nine by the Kings. The passes didn’t look crisp, and it was evident that there was some rust to the team’s game. The Wild had all their best offensive players in the lineup like Kaprizov, Fiala, Greenway, and Eriksson Ek, yet still couldn’t generate any goals.
Fiala especially had been out for a long time, sitting out the last three games the Wild played before their COVID break due to a suspension.
Jonathan Quick made some excellent saves, but at the same time, the Wild missed out on some great scoring chances. Both Jordan Greenway and Eriksson Ek had chances right in the slot that they missed the net on.
Zuccarello Makes his Return
One of the biggest positives the Wild could take out of this game was that winger Mats Zuccarello returned from an arm injury.
Like the rest of the Wild, Zuccarello didn’t look like he had his best game on Tuesday night. However, he did have one of the Wild’s best chances all game, where he got robbed by Quick in a highlight-reel save.
It’s expected that Zuccarello will need some time to get back into game shape. If he can get there, he will be a valuable addition to the top-six forward group for the Wild.
Depleted Defence Shows
The Wild’s biggest strength is their defence, and on Tuesday night, they just didn’t have that at their disposal.
Missing captain Jared Spurgeon, as well as Jonas Brodin, Ian Cole, and Carson Soucy, the Wild’s defence looked very different in this game. Three of the players put in to replace them, Matt Bartkowski, Dakota Mermis, and Louie Belpedio, just don’t have the experience to match what the Wild bring from the back end on a nightly basis.
Right from the opening goal, where Jaret Anderson-Dolan was left wide open while two players were watching the puck carrier, fans could tell this was going to be a tough night.
Maybe nothing summed up the night better than the third goal for the Kings by Dustin Brown. A complete mess-up in the Wild’s zone had the whole team exiting the zone way too early. It left Kopitar and Brown all alone, and Suter couldn’t get back in time. There was only so much Kahkonen could do in the net on that play.
Calen Addison Makes His NHL Debut
The other defenceman not previously mentioned that drew into the lineup was Calen Addison, a 2018 Penguins’ second-round pick who the Wild acquired in the Jason Zucker trade.
Addison, who is still only 20 years old, has three assists in three games with the Iowa Wild in the AHL. However, even with so little AHL experience, Minnesota needed players who were ready to play, and Addison had impressed in those three games, so he was slotted into the lineup.
Head coach Dean Evason wasted no time getting him on the ice, as he was in the opening lineup alongside Suter to start the game. With over 19 minutes of ice time, Addison proved he can play at the NHL level.
Still, there is a learning curve that comes with playing at the NHL level. There was a play in the 1st period when Kings forward Matt Luff was driving the net and skated right past Addison. The speed seemed to catch Addison off slightly, as the difference in pace is very different from the AHL to the NHL.
It does look like with a little more time and experience, Addison will soon be an everyday NHL blueliner. Once the Wild get their regular defensive group back healthy and playing, he might see some time back in the AHL to work on some areas of his game. Overall, though, an encouraging showing in his first-ever NHL game.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.