The happiest sight at Monday's Wild practice actually happened after all the healthy players left the ice. Petr Sykora and Andrew Ebbett, two of the Wild's four concussion victims, skated on their own.
They've progressed enough to get back on skates, if only to go around the rink by themselves. Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are feeling better, coach Todd Richards said, but still are being limited to minimal exercise. Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun wrote a piece published Monday in which Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said he's never seen a rash of head injuries like this one.
"I can't recall anything like it,'' Fletcher said. "It's such a concern. I know when many of the new arenas started up, we had some problems with the seamless glass. But we seem to have made significant improvements since then. (Besides), the past two injuries we had came on open-ice hits: Ed Jovanovski on Ebbett, Steve Ott on Sykora. It's something the league has looked at seriously the past couple of years. It will be interesting to see what the research shows, including what type of hits produce concussions and which areas on the rink they occur.''
The NHL's board of governors will discuss the issue again at this week's meetings in Pebble Beach, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly will provide a report on concussions. Daly told the NHL Live! radio show Monday that he'll also talk about the league's history in managing head injuries and said it has "tried to stay ahead of the curve.''
Owen Nolan isn't likely to play tonight because of leg soreness that kept him out of Saturday's game at Vancouver. Coach Todd Richards said Nolan's pain is the result of accumulated impact, including a couple of blind-side hits. He's sore enough that he didn't practice Monday.
Josh Harding is the latest flu patient and was far, far away from his teammates Monday. Richards said the team will bring up Anton Khudobin from Houston to back up Niklas Backstrom in Tuesday's game. So who was the mysterious guy behind the mask in practice, minding the goal opposite Backstrom? Chris Pietrzak-Wegner, the team's strength and conditioning coach. "He's pretty good!'' Richards said, laughing (but not too hard).
Nathan Smith was sent back to Houston, and Robbie Earl will be recalled.