Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Johnsson misses second practice; Havlat, Miettinen, Zidlicky appear good to go; Havlat at PP point; Bringing Sifers back?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: December 1, 2009 - 2:31 PM

Good afternoon everybody.

Scary moment in practice this morning when goalie Josh Harding took a shot up high near the collarbone. He was down for a good five minutes. Trainers worked on him as practice continued, but eventually Harding was able to continue.

"It was a little scary. Just like any other hockey player, he bounces right up and stays in practice," coach Todd Richards said.

The Wild got Marek Zidlicky and Shane Hnidy back in today's practice. Zidlicky missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury, and Hnidy missed Monday's practice for personal reasons. They're expected to play, as are Martin Havlat, who missed the past four games with a hammy, and Antti Miettinen, who missed the past three games with swine flu.

Kim Johnsson missed his second straight practice and third day (Wild had Sunday off) since playing a career-high 33 minutes, 21 seconds against Colorado. 

"Illness, so I don't know what that means for tomorrow," said Richards, who made it sound like this isn't the same illness Miettinen had.

Richards said he has to get together with GM Chuck Fletcher to determine if the Wild will bring back Jaime Sifers. Unless the Wild absolutely knows Johnsson is going to play, I'd think Sifers has to come back because the Wild only has five healthy D without Johnsson and injured Brent Burns.

And even if Johnsson says he can play, one would think you'd need Sifers as insurance because if something happened to one of the Wild D on Wednesday (last-minute injury or illness), the Wild would be short defensemen.

So my assumption is after 4 p.m. or Wednesday morning (callup after 4 p.m. means no cap hit for today), we'll find out Sifers is en route or here.

In practice today, Richards used Havlat on the power-play point. The Wild's power play has been sinking lately, and it has a lot to do with injuries to PP pointmen Burns and, on Saturday, Zidlicky. It's meant Richards has had to use a lot of defensive defenseman Hnidy, and even Greg Zanon. He also used center Andrew Ebbett there for a shift against Colorado.

Havlat adds a dimension there because he can find the open man or unload a shot, but Richards has been hesitant all season to use forwards on the PP point. That could change with Havlat on Wednesday, although if Sifers comes back, he looked very good there against the Avs.

With one extra healthy forward now, Richards will have to make a decision as to who to scratch. I'd assume it'd be between James Sheppard and Derek Boogaard, although Sheppard has been playing well the past four games at wing. He's skating better and has more shots in the past four games (nine) than he had in the previous 16 games (eight) as a centerman.

If you take Boogaard out, there goes the fighting element, but you get that element with Scott and nobody fights Boogaard anymore anyway (he's had one scrap this season and he beat the daylights out of David Koci).

So my guess would be Boogaard out.

Lots of chatter in the locker room today about Keith Ballard accidentally slashing teammate Tomas Vokoun in the head after Ilya Kovalchuk's goal last night. Here's the link.   with commentary from my Florida pals Steve Goldstein and Billy Lindsay.

Nik Backstrom said it reminded him of this -- Slovakia's Tomas Surovy slashing Jaroslav Halak after a goal against at last year's worlds. Shane Hnidy reminded me of how in 1998, Al MacInnis broke St. Louis teammate Darren Turcotte's hand on the bench by slamming his stick over the boards.

I'll have Wild reax on the Ballard-Vokoun incident in Wednesday's paper because many of the Wild players skate with Ballard before training camp in the Octagon player agency camp in St. Louis Park.

It was the talk in the room today, and a number of players watched it over and over again on YouTube.

Obviously, just a terrible mistake by Ballard, who lost his temper and made a mistake. But players lose their cool all the time in the heat of battle, only normally when they slam the goal, they don't come near their own goalie.

Ballard's got to feel awful today, but Vokoun is OK and word out of Florida is he sat with Ballard on the plane last night and has already forgiven him. Ballard will now have to deal with being a YouTube sensation, however.

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