Marcus Foligno admitted that he didn’t feel like himself during the Minnesota Wild’s 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday at Staples Center. He looked sluggish at times throughout the game, and was honest about his performances afterward.
“I didn’t play great,” the Wild forward said. “I just felt tired. That’s just conditioning and getting back to it. Almost feels like Game 1 of the season. I know I’ll be better next game and find my game a little more as we go on.”
The Wild as a whole looked a step slow, though it was especially noticeable from the players coming off the COVID list. That could continue to be an issue moving forward with the Wild expected to more players back for Thursday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.
Jared Spurgeon, Nick Bonino, Ian Cole and Nico Sturm were set to make their return to the lineup after recently being removed from the COVID list. They anticipated feeling a bit tired in the early stages of the game with only a few skates under their belt.
“You can practice and everything might be good there,” Spurgeon said. “As soon as we get into games and battle for an extended amount of time, it’s a bit different. Just going to have to be smart with shift lengths and the positions we put ourselves in.”
Most players anticipated feeling rusty after a couple of weeks off. While the rest of the Wild got back into the swing of things the other night, Spurgeon, Bonino, Cole and Strum haven’t played since a Feb. 2 game against the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to knock the rust off in a game situation,” Cole said. “We haven’t played hockey and haven’t really been in the mindset of hockey for the past two weeks. I think the ability to make crisp reads and then execute those reads at a high level is going to be key for us. That might take some time. Hopefully we can be smart enough to get up to speed shortly.”
Regardless of how sloppy the next few games are, Bonino says he’s just happy to be back on the ice.. He spent a couple of weeks quarantining in a hotel room in St. Paul, so he was thrilled to be around his teammates again.
“Just happy to have some interaction with humans,” he said. “It’s definitely good to get back into a routine. I can’t say I love hotel rooms right now. It keeps us safe, though, and that’s the biggest thing.”
After making his season debut against the Kings on Tuesday, Mats Zuccarello immediately earned a promotion ahead of Thursday’s game against the Ducks. He was penciled in to skate on the first line alongside Joel Eriksson Ek and opposite Kevin Fiala.
Asked about the decision to move Zuccarello up in the lineup, coach Dean Evason pointed to his creativity with the puck.
“He’s a guy that plays the game with a high skill set,” Evason said. “We have to find a way to score some goals, and he has that ability. He’s going to get an opportunity.”
Dakota Mermis was set to draw back into the lineup Thursday after impressing the coaching staff.
Though he hadn’t played a game in nearly 11 months, Mermis looked solid alongside Matt Dumba against the Kings. He finished with 17 minutes, 16 seconds of ice time and brought a physical presence to the game.
“He’s a very intense person and in practice he’s showed that,” Evason said. “He continued to grind, and it translated into his game last night. He played a sound, simple game. He had some opportunities where he jumped into the play as well. We were very happy with his game.”