Granlund, Stoner closing in on return to Wild lineup

Mikael Granlund, who's missed the past five games with an upper-body injury, returned to practice for the Wild on Saturday.

Brace Hemmelgarn/Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

Streaking into the playoffs with points in their last seven games, the Minnesota Wild also might be at full strength when the postseason begins next week.

Center Mikael Granlund, who’s missed the past five games with an upper-body injury, returned to practice for the first time on Saturday since sustaining the injury at Los Angeles on March 31. Defenseman Clayton Stoner, who’s been out since March 22 with a lower-body injury, could be ready to make his return in Sunday’s regular-season finale at home against the Nashville Predators.

Head coach Mike Yeo said the team is "hopeful" Granlund — who’s fifth on the team with 41 points despite playing only 63 games — could return for the playoffs.

"It’s a great sign, no question," Yeo said of Granlund practicing with the team on Saturday. "This is a real important part of our hockey team in a lot of areas; faceoffs, power play, second-line role and also you sometimes undervalue what he brings to the defensive part of the game, too. So, it’s a good step. Not sure where we’re ready to take it yet. He won’t play tomorrow, but he’s certainly on his way."

Yeo remained cautious with Granlund, but said Stoner would play Sunday if he made it through Saturday’s practice without incident.

Granlund had returned to the ice on Friday, skating on his own. He said conditioning wasn’t a problem and he felt good practicing on Saturday, with returning for the playoffs as a goal.

"Yeah, we’ll see," Granlund said. "This was the first step on the ice and we’ll see how it goes. It’s just good to be here and feeling better."

Granlund also missed games earlier this season with an upper-body injury and said he can’t change his approach on the ice.

"Obviously you want to try to be smart on the ice," Granlund said. "Things happen and sometimes when you try to reach for the puck or something like that, something like that happens. Just need to be ready for everything and be smart on the ice, but I just still want to compete all the time. That’s why I think I’m here and that’s what I try to keep doing."

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