MONTREAL – Age is just a number when it comes to the Minnesota Wild's young core, but in many regards, those numbers are trending up.
On most nights, the Wild has seven skaters in its lineup aged 25 years old or under. When Darcy Kuemper starts, the group grows to eight, where it held steady before defenseman Jared Spurgeon 26 turned in November.
Saturday night, the number of interest was 10, the goal total that forwards Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula each reached when Granlund scored twice, and Haula sealed a Wild victory with a late, empty-net goal.
MONTREAL – The Minnesota Wild is hoping to adopt the same mentality, efficiency, and success in its home games at Xcel Energy Center that it has found on the road recently.
Luckily for Minnesota, in that regard, it finds itself at Bell Centre on Saturday to play the Montreal Canadiens to begin a three-game road trip at a time when points are vital for the Wild.
"We've just been keeping it simple," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said of the Wild's recent road success. "We talked about it yesterday, we didn't like our home game the last three first periods, and we'll build from that, and keep getting better."
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk returned to Minnesota Wild practice on Friday after missing the Wild's game on Thursday due to illness.
Dubnyk said he feels better, and should be available to start on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.
"I think that's the plan," he said. "I don't see anything drastic happening, or anything changing, so as long as I continue to get better that's the plan.
Most nights, Nino Niederreiter is skating up and down the wing for Minnesota Wild.
On Thursday, he was a wingman of different sorts.
During pregame warmups prior to the Wild playing the Edmonton Oilers, an enterprising high school student held up a sign in the stands on the end the Wild was skating.
Minnesota became a teenage Thomas Vanek's adopted home. As a collegiate at the University of Minnesota, he wowed with his offensive talents and helped lead the Golden Gophers to a national championship in 2003.
Vanek ended up meeting Ashley, his future wife, and a Stillwater native. The fifth pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2003 NHL Draft, Vanek moved to New York, but made his summer home in the State of Hockey, and it's where his three boys were born and raised.
When Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild in 2014, Stillwater became, as he put it, his full-time home.
As the Minnesota Wild looks to ensure more games in its near future by being mindful of its present, the future of the NHL has been knocking on the Wild's doorstep the past week.
On Thursday, it comes in the form of Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, and the rest of a young Edmonton lineup. McDavid, the number one pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is third in the NHL in scoring with 22 points in 19 games since returning from a broken collarbone on Feb. 2.
This season, only forward Patrick Kane has more points per 60 minutes than McDavid.
Michalek has been back and forth between Iowa of the American Hockey League, and Quad City of the East Coast Hockey League in his first year pro.
In the AHL, Michalek is 6-2-0 with a .931 save percentage. In the ECHL, he's 12-8-4 with a .924 save percentage.
The organization's slogan is simple: "If you can play, you can play."
Now, it's being embraced by more and more of the hockey and sports world.
On Thursday, the Minnesota Wild and the You Can Play Organization, a partner of the Wild's, will host a You Can Play awareness night when the Wild plays the Edmonton Oilers.
Though it was two days ago the Minnesota Wild last found itself on the ice, playing on Sunday against the St. Louis Blues, Mikko Koivu said, "It feels like a week."
The Wild returned to the ice at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday for practice, having taken Monday and Tuesday off. That came on the heels of having played a back-to-back, three games in four nights, and eight in the past 13.
"It was awesome, and every guy in the room would probably tell you the same," Jason Zucker said. "It was really nice to have two days. It felt really weird. Yesterday, it felt like I was supposed to be doing something, and I just forgot."
As Matt Dumba said after the Minnesota Wild played the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, finishing up one of Minnesota's busiest stretches on the schedule, "The last couple of weeks we've been all over the map."
The path traveled for the Wild went on a temporary hiatus after its loss against the Blues, with three days separating it from its next game, a Thursday matchup against the Edmonton Oilers in Saint Paul.
The Wild's game against St. Louis was the second half of a back-to-back, Minnesota's third game in four days, its eighth in 13, and 15th in the past 29 days.