After two days of waiting, we finally know (thanks to The Athletic’s Michael Russo) how COVID will impact the Minnesota Wild’s roster ahead of their first-ever matchup with the expansion Seattle Kraken. Leading Wild scorer Mats Zuccarello and recent acquisition Rem Pitlick have been placed in the NHL’s COVID protocol after testing positive prior to Thursday’s canceled practice.
As Russo tweeted yesterday, the Wild have called up Kyle Rau, Connor Dewar and Jon Lizotte as roster replacements, with Dewar and Lizotte ready to make their NHL debuts should they get the call to suit up.
Both Zuccarello and Pitlick will have to test again over the next couple days to check for false positives. If they continue to test positive, both players will have to quarantine for at least 10 days and be symptom-free prior to their return, meaning neither player could potentially be eligible to return until November 10th against the Arizona Coyotes.
If they test negative over the next two days, they could return immediately, though not in time for tonight’s battle with the Kraken. They would, however, be able to return against the Colorado Avalanche for the end of the current three-game road trip.
Any close contacts on the Wild roster will also have to be tested each of the next seven days, according to Russo, so it wouldn’t be surprising to hear more names added to the protocol over the next week.
For now, it will be interesting to see how the Wild shuffle their top lines, with Lizard holding the wing alongside Joel Eriksson Ek and Kirill Kaprizov. Kevin Fiala would be an option, though perhaps an unlikely one. Dean Evason has shown a penchant for putting Kaprizov with Victor Rask (to the shagrin of Wild fans everywhere), but considering Rask was a healthy scratch against Vancouver, who knows if Evason would take Rask from the pressbox to the top line. Then again, perhaps Evason rewards Brandon Duhaime, who has impressed in his first NHL season, with a spot in the top six, relegating Rau and Dewar to bottom six duty.
Update: Russo tweeted out the lines from pre-game skate, headlined by the powerhouse first line of Kaprizov-Ek-Fiala (just like we Twitter coaches drew it up):