EDMONTON, Alberta – The wait for the Wild to officially resume its season has been a long one.
Not only did the team last play March 8 – four days before the league paused the season due to the coronavirus pandemic – but its matchup with Vancouver is also the last of the qualifiers to get underway.
Puck drop on Game 1 is 9:30 p.m. Central Time.
That game will be the third of the day at Rogers Place, with the action kicking off Sunday with another qualifying-round series between Arizona and Nashville (the Coyotes won 4-3). The middle clash is a round-robin tilt between St. Louis and Colorado.
Before that game and while Arizona-Nashville was ongoing, the vibe surrounding the bubble in Edmonton was subdued – definitely quieter than Saturday afternoon when there was more activity on the streets in the lead-up to the Oilers-Blackhawks opener.
I walked around downtown this afternoon, and the setup for players in the bubble is elaborate.
Gates crisscross streets, blocking roads, but there are guards posted up to open them up every once in a while to allow cars and foot traffic through. There are outdoor walkways around the hotels that players and personnel inside the bubble use to get around and even though there are banners covering the fencing, you can still see people walking.
The sidewalk in front of Rogers Place isn’t blocked off, and there was actually a screen in the Ice District (the downtown area that houses the arena) that was showing the Coyotes-Predators game.
It was a beautiful day outside, with the temperature approaching 30 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s not exactly the playoff hockey weather we’re used to, but it’s much cooler inside Rogers Place.
And that’s where the focus will be as the Wild begins its postseason pursuit tonight.
Jordan Greenway-Eric Staal-Kevin Fiala
Zach Parise-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno-Alex Galchenyuk-Mats Zuccarello
Ryan Donato-Mikko Koivu-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Carson Soucy-Brad Hunt
2-1: The Wild’s all-time record in neutral-site games.
4: Wins in six appearances for the Wild at Rogers Place since the arena opened.
74: Points in 97 career playoff games for winger Zach Parise.
44: Goals by the Wild over its last 11 games played.
7: Goals by winger Kevin Fiala over his past eight games.
About the Canucks:
Vancouver didn't have a playoff spot locked down when the season paused, and its bid took a hit when starting goalie Jacob Markstrom went down with a knee injury in February. Markstrom has healed and ready to return. He's never appeared in the NHL postseason before, and neither has the likes of Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. But those dynamic youngsters will be counted on to help lead Vancouver. Pettersson won the Calder Trophy last season as the NHL’s top rookie, and now Hughes is in contention for this season’s honors.