NASHVILLE - Guillaume Latendresse was wrapped with so much ice after Thursday's morning skate, his lower body looked like that of an indoor lacrosse goalie.

But Latendresse would have it no other way.

Four-plus months away from the ice will make you appreciate a few things, even the soreness that comes with suiting up and playing an actual game.

"My most exciting moment the other night was when I got to the rink," Latendresse said, flashing back to his first game in 134 days Tuesday against Colorado. "I went by the ice and just looked at the rink and relaxed.

"This is my fifth year. When you play all year, you don't think about somebody stealing that. I lost all that. So even when I don't feel awesome, at least I'm on the ice now."

Now Latendresse's goal -- and the Wild's -- is to get him back into good enough game shape so he actually can help the team down the stretch.

"That takes time. And right now, we don't have a lot of time," coach Todd Richards said. "Every game is so important, every shift, so we'd like to progress him as quickly as possible. ... We'll try to find situations where he can have success -- who he's playing against, who he's playing with -- so he's comfortable out on the ice.

"We have to be careful how we use him. We don't want his body breaking down too much. ... You've got to make the decision based on trying to help Gui, but also you've got to win the game."

Richards expected Thursday's game against Nashville "to be a really good test" for Latendresse "because last time we were in this building, the game was played at warp speed."

Last season, Latendresse had great success playing on a line with center Kyle Brodziak and right winger Martin Havlat. But Pierre-Marc Bouchard is on their left wing now, and the plan is to stick with what's working.

"If the Brodziak line continues to do what they've done, there's no sense in splitting them up," Richards said. "So now we have to find a spot to put Gui as long as he continues to get better."

Koivu, Clutterbuck possibly could play Friday

Captain Mikko Koivu (broken finger) missed his 10th game and winger Cal Clutterbuck ("upper body") missed his third Thursday, but Richards didn't rule them out for Friday's game in Dallas.

"They're progressing," Richards said. "Mikko seems to be handling the puck better, shooting the puck better. And Clutter's on the ice skating around and doing some things. They're both moving in the right direction."

Defenseman Clayton Stoner missed his second game because of a "lower body" injury and with defenseman Cam Barker ("upper body") not on the trip, defenseman Marco Scandella played his first NHL game since being concussed Jan. 14 against Colorado.

Forward Casey Wellman was up on emergency recall, but when Latendresse was able to play, Wellman was reassigned to AHL Houston.


• Islanders forward Trevor Gillies, serving a 10-game suspension for his head shot on Clutterbuck, told Newsday: "My intent was not to hurt Clutterbuck. ... I have to learn to keep my hands down. But I think if my hands were down it would have been a good hit. ... I have respect for all the guys I play against. I don't try to hurt anybody. I just play hard"

• Wild prospect Jason Zucker (Denver University) was named WCHA Freshman of the Year and was named to the All-WCHA second team.