On Wednesday most of the Wild players had the day off. But over at the arena at St. Thomas Academy, a few players were skating, including two who could be big pieces of a possible playoff puzzle: winger Cal Clutterbuck and center Mikko Koivu.
Unfortunately, it's not certain when either will be able to suit up again. Both, however, accompanied the team to Nashville, where the Wild will begin a crucial four-game trip against the Predators Thursday night. That game is followed by games at Dallas, Vancouver and San Jose.
The best news was that Clutterbuck is back on the ice. He had not been feeling well -- he has missed the past two games -- since being hit in the head by the New York Islanders' Trevor Gillies on March 2, but the Wild has not classified Clutterbuck's injury as a concussion.
After skating Wednesday, Clutterbuck didn't discuss his injury in much detail either. But he did say he felt good on the ice.
"It hasn't been that long, so it still felt pretty familiar to me," he said. "It was good to get out there and feel the cold air.
"I don't know whether I'll be in the lineup [Thursday in Nashville], or for any of the games. Right now I couldn't tell you."
Koivu couldn't either, though he indicated he would not be in the lineup against Nashville.
The team would love to have both back sooner rather than later on a trip that could decide the team's playoff hopes.
The Wild is in ninth place in the Western Conference with 77 points. Nashville has 76 points, while Dallas, in sixth, is three points ahead of Minnesota in a crazily close conference race.
The next two games then will be especially crucial -- and difficult. Minnesota is 1-2-0 vs. Nashville this season, having lost the past two meetings by a combined score of 9-1. And the Wild is 0-9-4 in Dallas since an overtime victory there in 2003.
Clutterbuck said he saw the doctor Tuesday, though he added that he hadn't needed any official clearance to return to practice.
"It was more to see how I was doing," Clutterbuck said. "It wasn't anything formal. I don't think I've been put in a situation where I need to be formally cleared to play. It's up to me and how I'm feeling. We'll go from there, I guess.
"I felt OK out there. I felt like I hadn't been on the ice in a couple days, but that's normal. I didn't feel like I'd lost any conditioning or anything, or any feel for the puck or anything. So that was a good sign for me. I'm just going to make sure everything is good to go before I get back in the lineup, because I want to make sure that, once I am in the lineup, I'm there [for good]."Scandella called up
With defensemen Clayton Stoner and Cam Barker hurting, the Wild recalled Marco Scandella from the Houston Aeros of the AHL. Barker did not make the trip to Nashville.