Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck was back on the ice at practice Wednesday. Only this time, he was with his own team and he was able to use the entire St. Thomas Academy rink.
It was Clutterbuck’s first practice since injuring his thigh taking a hit from Edmonton’s Taylor Hall on Feb. 21. After it was over both Clutterbuck and Wild coach Mike Yeo said there was a good chance Clutterbuck could return to action Saturday in Nashville.
“I’m making progress, I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Clutterbuck said. “I can definitely see [playing Saturday] as a possibility. I’m pretty confident.”
Said Yeo: “I would say there is a good chance, yes.”
Clutterbuck’s return to practice came four days after he skated for the first time since the injury. It was Saturday when Clutterbuck showed up at the STA arena, only to find that ice had inadvertently been rented by a local youth team.
“They were nice enough to let me use half the ice for a while my first time back,” Clutterbuck said. “Then I just went and joined them for the rest of their skate. It was fun.’’
Clutterbuck returned for an intentionally brisk practice that came a day after a rather flat performance Tuesday in Chicago. There were numerous battle and game-situation drills. Afterward, Yeo praised the team for the way it came to work.
“The guys battled and the guys worked today,” Yeo said. “That’s what this group does. The last game was an off game and we’re excited to play the next one.”
Clutterbuck practiced on a line with Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley.
“It’s always nice to have a guy like that coming back into your lineup,” Yeo said.
Clutterbuck said his thigh felt fine but that he was still battling stiffness. “I had some other stuff going on in my leg, too,” he said. “It’s a progression. Three days ago it was tough to get through. [Tuesday] it was a little easier. But today I felt good.”
Rupp, Kuemper out
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper and forward Mike Rupp were not at practice Wednesday, for different reasons.
Yeo said Kuemper was dealing with a sore groin even before he was inserted into Tuesday’s game in relief of starter Niklas Backstrom. “It was more sore after the game,” Yeo said. “So we kept him off [the ice] to get a couple days to get better.”
General Manager Chuck Fletcher has said the team is considering a change in backup goaltenders, with the idea of giving Matt Hackett — currently playing well in Houston — a chance. Yeo said a decision on a potential change had not yet been made.
Rupp, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers in early February, was given some time off to visit his family.