It’s been a long time coming for Josh Harding.
The netminder was on the ice at today for a full Wild practice, the first time since being placed on Injured Reserve on Feb. 12, as he continues treatment for multiple sclerosis. Harding has skated during optional skates, but this marks the first time he’s tended the net with all his teammates on the ice.
For a team that learned it will be without veteran winger, Dany Heatley, for the rest of the season, it was a welcome addition. Harding said after that he felt great, and he looked good.
“It was exciting being back with the boys,” Harding told the media after practice. “I might’ve chirped couple too many times out there. They were gunning for me, but I felt I held my own out there.”
He said that he felt like his old self and was making saves that he thought he should be making, which is a great sign.
“The way I felt today I don’t think that it can take too long to get back into game mode,” Harding added. Harding is taking things day-by-day and doesn’t have a timetable for his full return. Harding’s full media availability is on WildTV.
If it’s been a while since Harding has been on the ice with the team, it seems as if it’s been an equally long time since the Wild has had a full practice at Xcel Energy Center. The last time I can remember covering a non-gameday practice, I think the Harlem Shake was still relevant.
The team started things out, working on the PP breakout. The Wild then moved onto line rushes and followed that with in-zone line cycles against defensive pressure.
The Wild’s forward lines were the same as last night’s 1-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. After practice, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo spoke to the media about the need to give the lines a chance to develop some chemistry.
“That’s a double edged sword; walking the line between trying to develop some chemistry and giving hem some time to grow, or are we playing with something that might not the best solution,” Yeo said. “But after playing two games and only allowing one goal, it’s a little too early to (change things up).”
With Heatley out for the remainder of the season, it leaves a void on the left wing that the Wild will have to fill. However, Yeo is hopeful that center Matt Cullen will be able to help stabilize the Wild’s lines sooner rather than later. The veteran has been out since suffering a lower-body injury on April 1 against the St. Louis Blues. Cullen participated in the team’s picture day, and looked like he was skating around and testing things out a bit, but left the ice before the start of practice.
For the team’s blue line, things looked slightly different. Here’s what the D-pairs were today:
Suter – Brodin
Stoner – Spurgeon
Gilbert – Falk
Prosser – Clark
Finally, Wild prospect Jason Zucker was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. Congrats, Jason.