A week can make all the difference amid the chaos that is an NHL season. Minnesota Wild interim Head Coach John Torchetti has seen that firsthand.
Seven days ago, Torchetti was coaching the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena. At the conclusion of the game, he was promoted to his interim position in Minnesota.
Then came a three-game road trip to Western Canada that the Wild swept, ending an eight-game losing streak that preceded it.
There's a certain level of excitement for the Minnesota Wild ahead of its Sunday date against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
It's the first outdoor NHL game in Minnesota's history, many members of the Wild's locker room first foray into an outdoor pro game, and an occasion they'll share with friends and family.
But it also comes at a crucial juncture in the Wild's season, with Minnesota entering play on Saturday two points behind both the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators for the second wild card spot into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As Matt Dumba walked down the tunnel at TCF Bank Stadium back to the Minnesota Wild's locker room, he had a message for the media lined up in the hallways.
"Ray Lewis," Dumba said as he walked by.
It was an explanation for the optical design painted below Dumba's optics. He was one of many Wild players to don eye black on Saturday when the Wild practiced at TCF Bank Stadium to prepare for the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Game.
The Minnesota Wild has played a certain way in its past three games under interim Head Coach John Torchetti that led to three victories.
There's also a certain way it feels it has to play against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, but those two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
"We'll have to make our adjustments like we do every other game," Torchetti said. "If the ice is chippy, or it's windy, just make the adjustments as we go. You can't really have a set plan."
And Dumba and Scandella each realized they had something in common: neither player's family would be able to attend the event.
Needing some guests to invite, the duo decided on turning to Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, and Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota, after visiting earlier this year, and seeing firsthand the kind of impact they can make.
A pair of individuals from the Minnesota Wild will be pulling double duty over the course of the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series weekend at TCF Bank Stadium.
Andrew Brunette and Darby Hendrickson, assistant coaches for the Wild, will coach the NHL squad’s practice on Saturday afternoon at the outdoor rink, prior to lacing up their skates and donning North Stars sweaters for the alumni game at 4 pm.
“It’s going to be a crazy weekend,” Brunette said. “You’re helping run a practice on Saturday then get in your gear and play in a game, and still prepare for Sunday’s game.”
A mask, and its design, can represent a goalie's identity. Devan Dubnyk's newly painted helmet that he'll wear on Sunday for the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series tells the story of a hockey player, a father, a son, and a newly minted Minnesotan.
Beginning on the left temple sits the giraffe, a constant character on Dubnyk's mask, his childhood nickname. It wears a Viking helmet, a call-out to the Minnesota connection Dubnyk has forged in his 13 months in the State of Hockey.
Continuing across the front, a treasure map-like white scripture sits neatly on the chin, garnished with a red wild logo.
RICHFIELD – A day prior to the Alumni Game, the appetizer for the 2016 Stadium Series, former Minnesota North Stars and Wild players gathered for a final practice before taking on the Chicago Blackhawks alumni.
Having practiced a handful of times prior, the pace on Friday in the group's final tune-up was as high as it's been.
"The pace is four-times faster," Wes Walz said. "Not that it's anywhere close to an NHL pace, but we're going to have a lot of fun, try to put a show on for the fans, and see where it goes."
EDMONTON – When Mike Reilly arrives on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Sunday for the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, he'll have some decisions to make.
With game-time temperatures projected around 40 degrees, layering up won't be Reilly's chief concern. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy conditions, probably eliminating the need for eye black, unless worn as an accessory.
But for Reilly, who was one of the premier college hockey players during his four years at the University of Minnesota, what to eat is a legitimate question.
EDMONTON – There's a contagious habit making its way through the Minnesota Wild locker room. And no, it's not a reference to the Wild's three-game winning streak, but that is one of its symptoms.
"What a different feeling," Darcy Kuemper said after backstopping the Wild to a 5-2 victory on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers. "It's nice to see the smiles on everyone's faces again, and having some fun coming to the rink. It makes it a lot easier."
The frustration and sorrow that was the Wild's postgame has gone in the way of a giddy energy of a team reestablishing its confidence, and earning some points in the standings.