With the Minnesota Wild preparing for a new season of sorts, its practice on Friday took on the feel of a training camp session.
The Wild will play game number 82 against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, its regular season and home finale. Akin to a preseason game, while there's nothing to be gained in the standings against Calgary, there's plenty on the line, both physically and mentally.
"You want to be playing the right way, and want to be playing fast, and it's a regular season game, but it's really tough," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "You don't want anything to happen during the game, but you want to be playing the right way."
With 21 skaters and two goalies, the Wild's practice began on Friday in passing circles, with players cycling a large, weighted disk.
"It was nice," Jason Pominville said. "It was something different; something fresh. We hadn't really done it before.
"Those things are pretty heavy. When you grab a puck after that, it seems tiny, and pretty light. Guys were ripping it after that drill for sure."
From there, a puck was incorporated, then two pucks, and Minnesota worked on fundamentals, hoping to get back to the type of game that recently buoyed a season-best six-game winning streak.
The real preparation will begin though once the Wild learns its first round opponent, which will be determined on Saturday night.
"We thought we were going to find out last night, and then it kind of turned around," Pominville said. "We'll have to wait and see. It all falls on us. We have to prepare the way we know we can prepare, and play the way we know we can play, and if we do that, we give ourselves the best chance of having success."
The Chicago Blackhawks held a 1-0 lead against the St. Louis Blues in the closing minutes, a game many players said they were watching.
But the Blues scored a late tying-goal, and then won in overtime, keeping pace with the Dallas Stars and staying in contention for first place in the Central Division, and the Western Conference.
The Wild knows either of those teams, or any in the playoffs, presents a major challenge, and playing well, beginning with its Saturday finale, is most important.
"Just the little things; that's what we have to focus on," Nino Niederreiter said. "As a team, we've been working hard, but sometimes we're not working smart, and that's the key to what we have to do."
The Wild will attempt to do that on Saturday without forwards Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek. Parise, who did not practice on Friday, will be held out for maintenance. (Torchetti had previously said any players in need of rest would get it on Saturday.)
Vanek, who has missed the past two games and three of the past four with an upper-body injury, is expected to miss more than another week, likely keeping him out for the start of the playoffs.
It's why the Wild is hoping to get out of its final regular season game unscathed, but in doing so, put the kibosh on a four-game losing streak and play the kind of hockey that will be successful next week.
"It's always unfortunately something that you have in the back of your mind," Pominville said. "Everyone is human. Guys are probably going to think about trying not to get hurt. But you have to go out there and play, and try to get back on track, and be better as a team, and play a more complete game all over the ice."
In attempting to get back to its game, the Wild has been focusing on how it played during a recent six-game winning streak, watching film of those victories and reinforcing both a style and a mindset.
"If you're not winning, you're doing something wrong," Charlie Coyle said. "Parts of our game have been good at times, but not consistently, and that's what you need going into the playoffs."