Pitlick steps in to make season debut as Wild changes lineup

·4 min read

VANCOUVER – After watching games way above the ice from the press box, Rem Pitlick finally got closer to the action.

Much closer.

Pitlick made his Wild and season debut Tuesday night against the Canucks at Rogers Arena at the outset of a three-game road trip, drawing into the lineup for the first time after getting claimed off waivers from the Predators three weeks earlier.

"I wish I could have gotten in the last game," Pitlick said. "It would have been nice to play against Nashville. But I'm super-excited. I'm really thrilled to be here."

A late addition to training camp, Pitlick participated in only one preseason game with the Wild before being named to the team's opening-night roster.

The forward was idle for the first five games but still got to know his new teammates and bank plenty of ice time.

"We're skating every day and the games that I'm not playing, we have some pretty tough skates," said Pitlick, who had 11 games of NHL experience with the Predators after they drafted him in the third round in 2016. "But they're fun. We've been doing the bag skates with some shooting drills at the end. So, I think that that should translate for me hopefully being in shape out there.

"There is nothing like playing a game. So obviously, I'm gonna be out there. I'm gonna try to make some plays, make quick passes, not hold on to it too long. Just to kind of feel it out and stuff like that."

Late in that 5-2 loss to Nashville on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild scrambled the top line and reunited Joel Eriksson Ek with Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno.

But everyone was back in their usual spots to start against Vancouver, with Pitlick joining the fourth line next to Brandon Duhaime and Nico Sturm. Nick Bjugstad worked with Kevin Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau, and Victor Rask was the extra forward scratched. The Wild also scratched defenseman Jordie Benn, who has yet to make his team debut.

"I hope that I'll be able to keep up with them," Pitlick said of his linemates. "I think that's one of my assets is my speed and my skating, and they're obviously very reliable, consistent players. I'm gonna be looking to have a good stick out there, be in good position, and they all can shoot the puck. So hopefully we can use our speed and get some shots on the net and crash."

Pitlick later got his first point for the Wild, picking up an assist on Matt Dumba's third-period goal in Minnesota's 3-2 victory over the Canucks.

Familiar territory

Pitlick, a former Gopher, returned to 3M Arena at Mariucci recently to watch his younger brother Rhett suit up for his first game with the Gophers.

"I knew I wasn't playing that following day, so I went that Friday night," Pitlick said. "It was really exciting. I haven't been back on campus really much at all. So it was really awesome to go see him play."

COVID update

Assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, goaltending coach Frederic Chabot and video coach T.J. Jindra are in the NHL's COVID protocols and currently away from the team.

"We Zoom every day," coach Dean Evason said. "They get every game. They're still breaking down their responsibilities, their clips, that they do. They get them to us. We just hand them to the group. We're still a tight coaching team.

"Obviously, we're trying to be as safe as we possibly can as far as not being around people and being distanced. We're trying to stay as safe as we can."

Memory lane

The last time the Wild played in Vancouver was Feb. 19, 2020, when Evason secured his first win as Wild coach after taking over for Bruce Boudreau, who was fired on Feb. 14.

Players had their fathers on that road trip, and Evason was scanning the crowd for his children when the team prevailed 4-3 in a shootout over the Canucks.

"It was exciting because I saw them jump up before I knew the goal went in," Evason said.

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