Koivu, Backstrom looking good in practice
THURSDAY’S STORY LINE: Mikko Koivu, who has missed the last 13 games with an upper-body injury, participated in his first full practice without wearing a non-contact jersey. The center, who has 10 goals and 27, assists in 45 games this season, looked good on the ice and was working at full speed.
“I thought it was a good pace for practice and also did some battle drills, so obviously it’s more fun than to skate by your own. . . . It was a good feeling,” he said.
The Wild will practice again Friday, and Koivu will see how he feels before a decision is made about his status for Saturday afternoon game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“You need more than one practice, but see tonight and obviously tomorrow morning how it responds and go from there. That is all you can do at this point,” Koivu said.
The Wild would love to see Koivu back in the lineup, but coach Mike Yeo won’t rush a player who has played in only 45 games this season due to various injuries.
“We are not going to put him in a bad spot. This is the first day he has had a chance to get out there and have any battle drills,” Yeo said. “With that, we want to make sure we give him a chance to get into those battles to get comfortable in them again and also with that make sure he has full confidence the next time he hits the ice.”
Another player the Wild would love to get back is goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom (lower body) was injured on March 1 in Montreal and was expected to miss two to four weeks. Backstrom, who has missed six games, also participated in a full practice Thursday. There is still no timetable for his return, but he appears to be getting closer.
“He looked really good,” Yeo said. “We weren’t sure of we were going to have him for the whole practice. If it got sore if it got tired, then he was told to back off and to give it a rest, but he didn’t do that so that is a good sign.”
No. 2 goalie Josh Harding, who was injured Saturday in Phoenix, missed Thursday’s practice. Harding was able to back up Matt Hackett on Tuesday, and Yeo said Harding just needed rest. With another practice Friday, the Wild haven’t made any decisions on Saturday’s goaltender.
CULLEN AND SETOGUCHI ABSENT: Center Matt Cullen, who took a knee-on-knee hit from Brenden Morrow in Tuesday’s game, was not at practice but still could play Saturday. Cullen returned to the game after the hit, but Yeo said he was “a little bit sore today.” Forward Devin Setoguchi missed practice with a maintenance day.