Wild's Nico Sturm responds after being a healthy scratch

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Sarah McLellan, Star Tribune
·3 min read
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Nico Sturm wasn't happy to be sitting out.

"If you show me a guy that doesn't care that he's scratched, I'll show you a liar," Sturm said.

But when he returned to the lineup, subbing in Saturday at Vegas once Mats Zuccarello was ruled out with injury, Sturm was back to doing what he does best and that's being a quick and responsible checker for the Wild.

"We really liked his response," coach Dean Evason said. "We liked his physicality. We liked his speed. We liked his tenaciousness on the forecheck and taking time and space away from people, not only on the forecheck and through the neutral zone but defensive zone as well. He closes very quickly. His speed is great, and his work ethic is better."

Sturm was a healthy scratch last Thursday against the Golden Knights, an opportunity for Sturm to watch the game and reflect on what he might have done differently in his recent play, an experience Evason believed could be a positive for the rookie.

The 25-year-old would have been scratched for a second game if Zuccarello suited up Saturday but with Zuccarello unavailable, Sturm drew in and rediscovered the determination that's become his trademark.

"I watched the shifts and looked at the shifts, and it's not like I was just bad," Sturm said about the last game he played in San Jose before taking a timeout. "It was just a passenger effort. We lost the game, so that's not good enough. Overall, it's a long season with a lot of games. I wish I could play 100 percent every night, and that's certainly the goal.

"But I'm only human so every once in a while, I slip too. Then it's just about looking at it and saying, 'OK. That's not what it's supposed to look like." Then try to get back the next night."

More fans at the XThe Wild has played in front of a few thousand people already this season, most recently in Vegas, but Monday was the first time the team hosted a crowd of that size at Xcel Energy Center — welcoming in 3,000 to watch the Wild take on the Avalanche after Gov. Tim Walz scaled back COVID-19 restrictions last month.

"It'll be awesome to get some energy in the arena," Blaine native Nick Bjugstad said. "Playing Vegas with those fans, even as the opposing team, it gets you fired up. It'll be good to get a small amount of fans at least in the building. There's no better fans than Minnesota fans. I know I'm biased. But I'm sure they'll be cheering."

Parise rejoins teamZach Parise skated with the Wild ahead of Monday's game after getting removed from the NHL's COVID list on Saturday, but the winger didn't play against Colorado.

Parise has missed seven games since entering the protocols on March 24.

"We wanted him to get a good skate [Monday], and then we'll move forward," Evason said. "I don't think Zach's fitness is a problem. He's in phenomenal shape. We just made the choice to stay with the same lineup."

Injury updateZuccarello (lower-body injury) remained out a second straight game.

Marcus Foligno continues to skate, but there isn't a timeline for the winger's return. Foligno has been out with a lower-body injury since March 12.

"He is back on the ice," Evason said, "so that's extremely encouraging."

•Forward Luke Johnson centered the fourth line after clearing waivers on Monday morning.