Harding Skates; Wild Heads East

It was a very low-key morning down at Xcel Energy Center today, but the media assembled got some much needed excitement when Josh Harding walked past and announced he skated earlier today. It was in fact the first time Harding has gotten on skates since his knee surgery a few months ago, and even if he only skated for a bit in sweats, it’s still means he’s nearly a full month ahead of schedule to return from the torn ACL/MCL he suffered in his right knee during the preseason. Harding said he’s never counted himself out for this season and continues to work just to get back in the lineup.

Since he’s back on the ice, Harding now has a stall in the Wild locker room for the first time this regular season:

Harding was all smiles as he talked with the media and said the skate “felt good” but also added that “you’ve got to take it easy, you can’t over push it.” When asked if he’d be returning in a few weeks, he answered, “I’d love to say, ‘Yeah,’ but it obviously just depends on how everything goes and you’ve got to be careful with it…we’re just going to take it week by week.” Harding joked of good friend James Sheppard’s return from injury, saying, “I’m trying to beat him back.”

As for the Wild players not on injured reserve, six players joined Assistant Coaches Rick Wilson and Darby Hendrickson for a optional practice before the Wild flies to New Jersey early this afternoon. Perhaps most noticeably, Marco Scandella was on the ice after missing last night’s game because of an illness. He was joined by Clayton Stoner, Brad Staubitz, Patrick O’Sullivan, Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon.

In some other news, Niklas Backstrom declared himself good to go with no lasting effects of the collision with Scandella in practice last week. Backstrom told the media that at this level you have to practice how you play and the collision was “just part of the game.” He added that Scandella’s “a great guy” and he holds no ill will about the collision.

As for the lineups for the Wild’s contests on the East Coast this week, it is still unknown who will start because Todd Richards was not available to talk with the media this morning. But lucky for you, Wild.com brainiac Glen Andresen is traveling with the team on this road trip, so he’ll have all the lineup details for you this week, as well as some cool other features for wild.com.

Until Glen posts his first report from New Joisey, here’s today’s PONDcast from Kevin Falness to get you through the day.

Finally, don’t forget to watch the USA-Canada showdown in the semifinals of the World Junior Championship from Buffalo, N.Y., tonight on NHL Network at 6:30 p.m. CT. Good news for the Yanks: Wild prospect Jason Zucker and Jeremy Morin are both expected back in the U.S. lineup. It might not be a gold-medal matchup, but any game between the Canadians and Americans should be incredibly entertaining, especially during World Juniors. I couldn’t get Brad Bombardir to make an apparel bet again since he ended up having to wear my USA Hockey scarf the day after the U.S. gold last year, and Wild Equipment Manager Tony DaCosta wavered before refusing to commit, too. Looks like we’ve got some Canadians in St. Paul who aren’t too confident in the outcome! GO USA!

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