One, two, three, four.
That’s how many games the Wild’s Alex Goligoski is from 1,000 in his NHL career, and the defenseman knows it.
“It’ll be cool,” Goligoski said. “It seems so crazy how fast it goes.”
The Grand Rapids native was actually on track to reach the milestone last season, his first with the Wild, before he started getting scratched from the lineup — oddly enough right around the time he signed a two-year contract extension with the team.
But after an offseason trade and injury on the blue line, Goligoski has a chance to get back in action as the reliable veteran he’s been for so many years.
“I had a really good summer and feel very motivated,” he said.
Goligoski arrived as-advertised after joining the Wild in 2021 on a one-year deal.
He debuted on the top unit alongside captain Jared Spurgeon and racked up the majority of his 30 points in the first half.
Then Goligoski was a healthy scratch for three straight games at the end of March, making it impossible for him to skate in his 1,000th that season. He finished at 996.
“It was tough,” Goligoski said of sitting out. “I didn’t expect it. You want to be out there in that situation at the end of the year. That’s the reason you keep going and the reason you play and the reason you play the whole year. It was tough.”
Come playoff time, Goligoski was a spectator again, watching Game 1 against St. Louis before replacing Dmitry Kulikov for Games 2-5 in the first-round series; in what became a season-ending Game 6 loss for the Wild, Kulikov was back in for Goligoski.
All this happened after the Wild had already factored Goligoski into their future, announcing a two-year, $4 million contract on March 30 that includes a no-movement clause.
“It was a weird time,” Goligoski recalled. “I don’t know. I know there’s tough decisions to make. We had a lot of good players. I think a lot of it was based on some matchups that they thought might work better than others. Who knows?
“You want to prepare yourself so you’re not in a position where that’s in their head, that maybe that’s a change they want to make. So, that’s my job.”
Going into this season, Goligoski doesn’t look like he’s still on the bubble.
Kulikov was traded to Anaheim in a move that created some much-needed salary cap space for the Wild, and Jon Merrill suffered an upper-body injury that’ll sideline him at the outset.
In training camp, Goligoski has been skating with Calen Addison in what could be the team’s third defensive pairing on opening night.
If that duo stays intact, it wouldn’t be the first time the 37-year-old Goligoski has teamed up with a younger defenseman. He also skated with Jakob Chychrun in Arizona and before that John Klingberg in Dallas.
“I like it,” Goligoski said. “I like playing with guys that want to hang onto the puck and to play with the puck, and I like being vocal out there. So, if that can help him if that’s who I’m playing with, then we can work with each other really well.”
Off all his stops in the NHL, Goligoski has played the most with the Stars (385 games) then the Coyotes (362) and Penguins (177), whom Goligoski won a Stanley Cup with in 2009 as a rookie after Pittsburgh drafted the former Gopher in the second round in 2004.
Add in the 72 he’s represented the Wild, and Goligoski is on the cusp of an impressive accomplishment, one that he could achieve as soon as Oct. 20 in his home state.
“I remember at 500 I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy. I can’t believe I hit this number,'” Goligoski said. “And now it’s going to be 1,000. It goes really quick. When you when you think about it, just so grateful to so many people that help you get there and support you along the way.
“It’s not easy playing for so many years and being gone a lot from family and all that. So, if you didn’t have that support system, people encouraging you, would make it a lot harder. [I’m] very thankful.”