Before the Minnesota Wild took the Xcel Energy Center ice for its first post-All-Star break practice, both Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse were out there skating. Both were being put through some heavy skating drills, and Latendresse actually stayed on the ice for the team’s practice.
Latendresse says he has been symptom free of his concussion for 10 to 12 days and said now it’s a matter of him getting cleared for contact before getting back into action.
“I started cranking things up and I feel good right now,” said Latendresse. “I think we’ve got to be patient, but at the same time we want to push it where I need those games to get ready for maybe the last 20 or 25 games, so if I can get a few in before that and make sure we’re ready for the last stretch that would be good.”
Right now, there are 33 games left on the schedule starting with a home matchup with Nashville tomorrow night. There is no timetable for Latendresse’s return, but he said he feels like he can go once he’s cleared for contact.
“I feel good, I eat good, I sleep good,” he said. “So whatever. Whenever I get free and clear for contact, after that, why not? Even if I wait, if my head is fragile and is not ready I’m going to get hurt again, so why wait? Get in the game, but maybe the first few games get more cautious and get the feel of the game instead of trying to go and be right in it. I think I just got to be more intelligent about that.”
Head Coach Mike Yeo said he actually thinks Koivu will be ready before Latendresse is, although he didn’t have a timetable for either of them to return to games. Yeo hinted that Koivu might be ready to take part in tomorrow’s morning skate, and the team will “play it by ear” at that point.
There were no other updates on Jarod Palmer or Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Bouchard has skated a little bit on his own, but nothing strenuous.
As for the rest of the team, it was back to business, although the faces under the white helmets were noticeably darker than they were last week at this time.
About the only guy who still looked the same was Nick Johnson, who was the Wild’s representative at All-Star Weekend. Johnson said he had a great time.
“They put on a heck of a show,” said Johnson, who had his brother with him throughout the weekend. “It was cool to be a part of it, and be around the guys. To take in something like that was really neat.”
Johnson didn’t get a lot of action in the Skills competition. He was a passer in the team relay, so he was charged with sending passes to Shea Weber, Kris Letang and Steven Stamkos for one-timers into an empty net.
The Wild will use the same lineup tomorrow night that it used in its last two wins before the break. The only change will be Josh Harding getting the call to start.
Yeo said the playoff mentality has to start tomorrow night.
“That’s where we’re at right now for sure, and that was the message this morning,” said Yeo. “This is a fun time to be a hockey player. When you come to the rink and you get to play a game and it matters. Every day it matters. We should all be well rested here. It was a nice, long break. We have to feel good about where we’re at at this point right now. So let’s take advantage and let’s get excited about this.”