What a week. After beating the Vancouver Canucks in dramatic fashion, the Minnesota Wild faced their most significant rival of the last two seasons earlier this week; COVID-protocol absences.
With both players and coaching staff absent, they took on the Seattle Kraken and looked flat, falling 5-2 in a sobering loss. With leading scorer Mats Zuccarello likely to miss tonight's game against the Colorado Avalanche, the Wild will have to lean on the top-heavy line of Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kevin Fiala to generate some offence.
If that line can't do it, maybe über-prospect Adam Beckman can light the lamp after being recalled from the Iowa Wild yesterday and is set to make his NHL debut. After making quite the impression in training camp and preseason, Beckman has continued to perform well in the AHL with a goal and two assists in four games. He's an exciting piece and can bring a lot of energy and offensive spark when on the ice.
Beckman's debut is only made possible by Jordan Greenway heading to the IR after hobbling off the ice after a hit from Mark Giordano. Alex Goligoski and Dmitry Kulikov will also miss some time, as the injuries are being laid on thick at the worst possible time, with the COVID absences providing a one-two punch.
The Wild won't be the only team suffering from the injury bug tonight, as the Colorado Avalanche will be missing Sam Girard, Valeri Nichushkin, Devon Toews and possibly Mikko Rantanen. After missing Nathan MacKinnon for the first couple of games of the season, the star center has been his usual productive self with a goal and six assists in five games since returning.
The Avalanche's injuries have contributed to their slow start, as the Avs have started the season 3-4-0, ahead of only the winless Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division standings.
With Calen Addison also called up from the Iowa Wild, there will be lots of fresh faces and legs on the ice for Minnesota, so here's hoping that can help a team that looked lacking energy so severely in the second period against the Kraken on Thursday.
Can Adam Beckman prove he belongs here — for good?
Coming out of the preseason, it looked like Adam Beckman and Brandon Duhaime had played so well that the Wild would have no choice but to carry them on the opening night roster, at least for a little while. While Duhaime made the team look great in the early goings, Beckman was sent down to start the season with the Iowa Wild.
His torrid pace has continued there, but now that he has an opportunity to show up in the regular season, will he make management make the hard choice to send him down once the team gets a little healthier?
Can the defense corral Nate Mac?
He's a nightmare on the forecheck and has speed that can kill. If it weren't for Connor McDavid, MacKinnon would likely be the league's forefront superstar. With seven points in five games, his production is up to his usual standard. But for a player that regularly flirts with 40+ goals over 82 games, his lone goal — and a powerplay one at that — seems out of place.
Can the patchwork defensive corps keep MacKinnon in check and keep that goal total where it's at?