Wild place Zuccarello, Pitlick in COVID protocol
Wild recall wingers Connor Dewar and Kyle Rau and defenseman Jon Lizotte from Iowa Wild
SEATTLE — After abruptly cancelling practice Wednesday afternoon, the Minnesota Wild placed wingers Mats Zuccarello and Rem Pitlick in COVID protocol Thursday morning.
Not ideal considering Zuccarello is the team’s leading scorer this season, and Pitlick was coming off impressive performance in his team debut.
Neither player was available for the game against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night at Climate Pledge Arena, and their status for the remainder of the road trip is still up in the air. If both players return another positive test, they will need to isolate for 10 days, and be free of symptoms before they can rejoin the team.
Though this could throw a wrench in the game plan, coach Dean Evason seemed confident in his team’s ability to respond to this type of adversity. He referenced the COVID outbreak from last season that postponed games for nearly two weeks.
“It’s what our world is, right?” Evason said. “We have been through it and dealt with it. We were notified nobody else is positive, so hopefully it stays that way.”
“We do as much as we possibly can,” Evason added. “Sometimes it happens and it’s out of our control. We will go forward with whatever happens.”
The announcement about Zuccarello and Pitlick came a couple of days after it was confirmed that assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, goaltending coach Freddy Chabot and video coach T.J. Jindra are in COVID protocol. None of the coaches are on the current road trip.
It’s worth noting that general manager Bill Guerin confirmed before the season that the Wild are 100 percent vaccinated. Asked if the Wild will change the way they interact moving forward, captain Jared Spurgeon noted how everyone is doing everything they can to stay safe.
“We are all vaccinated,” Spurgeon said. “We all wear masks when we are supposed to and stuff like that. Just tough when we are in a room together at all times.”
To fill the open roster spots, the Wild recalled wingers Connor Dewar and Kyle Rau from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, along with defenseman Jon Lizotte.
The plan was for Dewar to make his NHL debut Thursday night. He’s quite familiar with the Seattle area having played junior hockey nearby for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.
“It’s kind of funny the way it works out and life comes full circle,” said Dewar, who was expecting both of his billet families at his NHL debut. “I’m really excited.”
As for the rest of the lineup, Kevin Fiala was set to take Zuccarello’s spot on the top line, playing alongside center Joel Eriksson Ek and opposite star winger Kirill Kaprizov.
That’s an intriguing line, to say the least, with skilled players across the board. It’s also the first time Kaprizov and Fiala have played on the same line in a game.
“Some positives maybe coming out of some negative stuff,” Evason said. “They obviously have a chemistry playing on the power play and 6-on-5 situations. Maybe it’s an opportunity for us to get a real good look. And hopefully we see that chemistry come through in the game.”