MENDOTA HEIGHTS -- Attendance was so sparse at the Wild's practice at St. Thomas Ice Arena on Friday that assistant coaches John Anderson, Bob Woods and Darby Hendrickson took part in team drills.
At one point near the end of the session, Anderson skated over and jokingly yelled at assembled media, "There's more of you up there than there are players on the ice."
And he was right. Official attendance from practice included nine members of the media and four Wild players.
Such is life right now for the Wild, which is navigating its way through almost unprecedented injury strife.
Already down Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise and playing with 11 forwards going into Thursday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota lost forwards Marcus Foligno, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle during the game. The Wild played with eight forwards for much of the third period, and at one point late in the game, with two more forwards situated in the penalty box, head coach Bruce Boudreau had just six forwards at his disposal.
Minnesota overcame the adversity, closing out a 5-2 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center, scoring four goals over the final 20 minutes.
"I don't know if I've ever had that happen before like that," forward Jason Zucker said after the game.
After a week with nothing but practices, and a game Thursday where five forwards played at least 17 minutes, the team had an optional skate on Friday.
Of the four players on the ice, one of them was Parise, who continues to battle back from an undisclosed injury. Backup goaltender Alex Stalock was another. He was the first one off the ice, and joked afterward that it was the first time he had been that guy in his career.
Unfortunately for the Wild, the injury issues it currently faces are no laughing matter.
With Granlund out for at least another week and Parise unlikely to play until next weekend at the earliest, the injuries to Coyle, Niederreiter and Foligno leave the club extremely shorthanded.
Coyle was placed on long-term injured reserve on Friday with a fractured right fibula. After having surgery at TRIA Orthopaedic Center in Bloomington, Coyle is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks. Niederreiter was placed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss a minimum of three weeks.
Foligno was not placed on injured reserve but will have a surgical procedure on Sunday to repair a left facial fracture. He will miss a minimum of one week.
The move to put Coyle on LTIR provides the Wild with salary cap relief necessary to recall players from Iowa and fill out its lineup. Putting Niederreiter on IR gives Minnesota additional space on its active roster.
The club recalled Luke Kunin from Iowa earlier in the day on Friday, assigning defenseman Mike Reilly to the AHL. Friday night, Minnesota recalled forwards Christoph Bertschy, Landon Ferraro and Zack Mitchell from Iowa before the NHL club's home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
Kunin will be making his NHL debut.
"What a great challenge," Boudreau said on Thursday. "If we can come away from this in a good frame, that's great. You have to accept challenges, and this is a real big challenge early on in the year."