MINNEAPOLIS — It was good sign for the Minnesota Wild on Monday to see three players skating in red jerseys at the team’s practice at Ridder Arena.
Forward Zach Parise returned to the ice after missing time with a concussion. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon was also skating after missing four games with a shoulder injury. And goaltender Josh Harding participated in his first official practice of the season after suffering a foot injury before the year began.
Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said all three will travel with the team on its upcoming trip, but none will play on Tuesday against New Jersey.
"I was happy to get the news that they would be joining us for practice," Yeo said Monday. "They looked good. . . . Bottom line is we had to get through today. This is a big step. They looked good in practice. We’ll talk some more with them, but we plan on bringing them on the road."
Yeo said the reason for bringing all three to New Jersey despite not playing them Tuesday is so they can all skate with the rest of the team. They had previously been working out back in St. Paul while the rest of the Wild were on the road.
Minnesota has lost three in a row, scoring one goal in two of those losses while getting shut out in another. However, Yeo didn’t blame the slump on the absence of Parise and Spurgeon.
"We’re not that far off," Yeo said. "You look at a couple of the games that we had and you’re playing on the road and we got off to great starts. We don’t score and then we kind of get away from our game a little bit. . . . The ability to stay with it for 60 minutes, we’ve got to be a little stronger between the ears. We’ve got to be a little bit tougher mentally."
Harding was reportedly injured in an off-ice incident in September and suffered a broken foot. The 30-year-old goalie appeared in 29 games last season for the Wild and missed time due to complications from multiple sclerosis.
On Monday he rejoined his team for the first time since breaking his foot. There’s still no timetable for when Harding might return to game action, but returning to practice was a good sign.
"This is another step. Whatever I can do to help this team out, that’s the next step," Harding said. "It was great seeing all the guys again and getting that competition back and challenging yourself to stop every shot and just going out there and doing your job."
Parise was not made available to the media following Monday’s practice. He won’t get to play against his former team in New Jersey on Tuesday. He sustained a concussion on Nov. 4 in Minnesota’s game against Pittsburgh at Xcel Energy Center.
Still, it’s a bonus for the Wild to have Parise, Spurgeon and Harding all making the trip.
"I think it does a couple things. There’s no question there’s an emotional lift," Yeo said. "It’s a positive feeling the fact that they’re out here and the idea that they’ll be returning and helping the group. It’s certainly a motivator, too, for some people that somebody’s coming back in the lineup means that there will be other guys that get moved around. I think guys are always doing the math and guys are always aware of that."