ST. PAUL -- Players returned from far and wide on Sunday as the Wild prepares to get back to work following a five-day bye week from action. It began with a practice at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday evening.
"The break was nice. Very relaxing," said Wild forward Nino Niederreiter, who spent the past few days on the beach in Jamaica.
Some went to Mexico, others Florida as a few players tried to escape what was supposed to be a snowy weekend in the Twin Cities. Regardless of where players went, the respite from games allowed the bumps and bruises of the season to subside as Minnesota embarks on a grind of a schedule the rest of the way.
The Wild plays three games in the next four nights, with two of those coming on the road after what promises to be a physical matchup with the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, in what is the final game of a team-record eight-game homestand.
Video: Bruce Boudreau Practice in St. Paul
"We thought we went up and down the ice pretty good and hopefully they have their legs tomorrow because we know we're in for quite a game tomorrow," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I think there were some missed passes but I just wanted guys to get up and down the ice and get used to playing again."
Minnesota is 4-2-1 in the first seven games of the stand and is trying to avoid consecutive losses in regulation for the first time since Nov. 1 and 5. The Wild lost 5-3 against the Chicago Blackhawks last Tuesday in its final game before the layoff.
To finish the home stretch with a win, the Wild will need to buck a negative trend for teams coming off the bye this season. League-wide, clubs are 7-14-4 in their first games after the layoff. That's why getting back on the ice and at least working out the kinks was so important on Sunday.
"It's always nice to get a little extra skate in there and get another morning skate tomorrow," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. "I think the guys came in ready to work, and that's what we did."
Boudreau said he reached out to some of his friends around the League to gauge how they handled the bye week. Each one had a different answer and seemed to see different results.
"We play three games in four nights starting tomorrow and when you're off for five days, you're cutting your nose to spite your face if you're grinding them into the ice today," Boudreau said.
Dalpe recalled from Iowa
In need of a fourth-line centerman for practice and potentially Monday's, the Wild recalled Zac Dalpe from Iowa on Sunday morning.
Dalpe, 27, has tallied three points in nine games with Minnesota and two goals and 40 shots in 12 games with Iowa this season. He underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee on Oct. 31.
"Seems like my year last year and this year has been a bit like Groundhog Day, but you just work hard every day and hope the rest takes care of itself," said Dalpe, who dealth with a knee injury last season, as well. "It's been frustrating at times, but unfortunately, I know how it goes."
Walk the lines
Certainly subject to change before the game on Monday, but the Wild came out of the layoff very similar to how it went in, with Charlie Coyle playing right wing and Erik Haula on the third line.
Here is how Minnesota's forward lines looked at the afternoon practice on Sunday:
Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart - Zac Dalpe - Jordan Schroeder
Scouting the Kings
Los Angeles began the day Sunday three points behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference but has also played one additional game. The Calgary Flames are four points clear of the Kings for the top wild card position.
The Kings have managed to stay in the Stanley Cup Playoff picture despite being without goaltender Jonathan Quick for all but two games this season. Quick sustained a groin injury in the season opener, then missed more than four months of action before returning to the lineup Saturday, making 32 saves in a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. A two-time Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Award winner, Quick is widely considered one of the best pressure goaltenders in the NHL.
Los Angeles also made waves on Sunday when it traded a player, a prospect and two draft picks to Tampa Bay for goaltender Ben Bishop. Bishop, who helped lead the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals two seasons ago, provides the Kings with insurance and a formidable 1-2 punch between the posts down the stretch.