The Wild will have fewer games to try to secure a playoff spot.
Almost every road trip will start with a lengthy flight, since all but one of the team's division rivals live one or two time zones away.
And the Wild's schedule, all against teams in the makeshift West Division, could be interrupted at any time by a pandemic that continues to rage around the world.
But that doesn't mean General Manager Bill Guerin will be grading the upcoming season on a curve.
"Not at all," Guerin said on a video call Monday. "This is another season in the National Hockey League, and we expect everybody with the Minnesota Wild to compete and compete for a championship and bring their best every night. Just because it's a different type of season and shortened and we're starting at a different time and everything that's going on in the world — no, expectations are the same.
"If anything, this is when we find out the type of guys that we really have."
After months of speculation, the NHL finally announced Sunday its plan for next season: a 56-game slate that kicks off Jan. 13 with training camps opening Jan. 3.
Teams have been reorganized into four new divisions, including an all-Canadian setup north of the border, and the top four finishers in each will advance to the postseason.
Instead of staying closer to home in the revamped Central, the Wild and St. Louis are in the West Division alongside Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, San Jose and Vegas.
While the California squads have been on the decline, the Coyotes are a bit of a wild card. As for the rest, the Blues won the Stanley Cup just two seasons ago and the Avalanche and Golden Knights look like legit contenders.
What could complicate the challenge of competing against these teams is the travel time it'll take to play them on the road, with the Wild and St. Louis facing some of the longest treks among the U.S.-based clubs. But Guerin isn't worried.
"It doesn't concern me," he said. "It doesn't. We travel on great planes. We stay in great hotels. We eat properly. We have plenty of time to acclimate to different time zones. Everybody travels. Unless you're in the East, if you're from the West at all, your travel is tough. That's just the way it is."
Having most of its road schedule in the Pacific time zone could mean a slew of late local time starts, but Guerin is hoping some puck drops get moved up. He hasn't received any game times yet, but he said the team might make some requests. The NHL is likely to release the schedule later this week.
"It'd be nice for [fans to] not have to stay up so late to see our games," Guerin said.
No more additions
What is clearer is how the Wild will reassemble after a four-plus-month offseason that began when the team was ousted from the playoff bubble by Vancouver during the qualifying round in August.
Aside from goalie Alex Stalock (upper body) and winger Mats Zuccarello (arm surgery), Guerin expects everyone else to report healthy and he isn't anticipating any players opting out of the season.
Zuccarello won't be ready for the start of camp, which won't include any preseason action, and Guerin hopes Stalock returns at some point during the season.
To help offset Stalock's absence, the Wild signed Andrew Hammond last week, and the team has youngster Kaapo Kahkonen to back up new No. 1 Cam Talbot. Zuccarello's spot in the lineup will be filled internally until he's ready to return; the Wild won't be bringing in anyone on a tryout, Guerin said.
Skating in St. Paul
Players have been working out at Tria Rink in St. Paul, and most of the roster is already in the Twin Cities. Team brass is still discussing the vacant captaincy, and an announcement is expected closer to camp.
"From what I hear, the guys have had some good skates and doing what they can," Guerin said. "I trust these guys that they're all going to come in great shape and ready to go. They are all anxious to play."
Among those already in Minnesota preparing for the season is Kirill Kaprizov, who is on the brink of his NHL debut after signing an entry-level contract with the team in the summer. He headlines a group of new arrivals that includes forwards Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad in addition to Talbot.
"He seems to be doing great," Guerin said of Kaprizov. "Typical him. Every time I see him, he's got a smile on his face. I see him interacting with all the other guys, and I think things are going really, really well so far."
Playing through pandemic
Another injection of youth could come via Marco Rossi, if the reigning first-round pick makes the team. The Wild could also choose to return Rossi to the ZSC Lions in Switzerland to continue his development.
Decisions like that, that establish the lineup, are the familiar aspects of a unique season like the one on deck. Same goes for the prize at the end of the journey.
Even so, plenty will be new.
Guerin's expectations for the team just won't be among them.
"It's just a little different," Guerin said. "If we let that be an excuse, it'll become an excuse and we don't want that. We just have to accept things for what they are and play right through it."