Wild center Mikael Granlund sounded relieved to be back on the ice with his teammates Sunday, even if he was wearing a yellow no-contact jersey. Granlund practiced for the first time since he broke his wrist on Dec. 29 and smiled throughout the nearly hour-long workout. Coach Mike Yeo said Granlund won't play Monday against Columbus at Xcel Energy Center, but he might rejoin the lineup for Tuesday's game at Detroit.
Yeo said Granlund must be cleared by doctors for contact before he can play. He doesn't think Granlund has lost much conditioning, since he resumed skating shortly after having surgery to repair the wrist. Granlund confirmed that he has been doing lots of skating and agreed that his fitness won't be a problem.
"It felt good out there,'' said Granlund, who has four goals and 11 assists. "I was real excited to get back out there. We'll see where we go from here.''
While new goalie Devan Dubnyk stayed in one net for all of Sunday's practice drills, Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom shared time in the other. Yeo said Kuemper is "cleared and ready to go,'' healed completely from a lower-body injury that kept him sidelined for six games. As for how he will juggle three goaltenders, Yeo acknowledged that it won't be easy. He went through it last year with Backstrom, Kuemper and Josh Harding and said the team's handling of the situation is going to be critical.
It's possible, Yeo said, that Kuemper will go to Iowa for a conditioning stint in the AHL. That is being considered, but nothing has been finalized. "It's up to us to figure out when he's had enough work to get into full-time action,'' Yeo said.
In the meantime, Yeo, goalie coach Bob Mason and the rest of the staff must figure out how to get everyone the repetitions they need while also handling their psyches with care.
"I think we were able to manage it fairly well (last year),'' Yeo said. "It is a little bit tricky in that you have to make sure the person who's starting is getting the workload and preparation they need. And in a lot of ways, how you deal with the other two guys is going to be equally as important as far as their emotional state, making sure they're ready in case they need to be called upon and also making sure they're getting the proper amount of work.''
Backstrom was testy Sunday when asked about his recent difficulties in net. He acknowledged that the competition created by Dubnyk's arrival will be good for everyone, and he also agreed with Yeo that it will be challenging for all three to get the work they need. But the bottom line, Backstrom said, is that all three have to find a way to do whatever they need to do to make sure they are at their best.
"It's always easy to judge the goalies,'' said Backstrom, who has a goals-against average of 3.04 and save percentage of .887. "It's easy to blame the goalies.
"For a goalie, the biggest thing is you have to know you can make mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes. You have to be able to know you can do it. You can't go out there and think you can't make a mistake, because that’s not going to help you. You just have to find a way to be at your best for the guys in this locker room. That’s what they deserve.''
Mr. Russo (or as Sid might call him, Mr. Multimedia) asked that I remind you that he will appear on Rosen's Sports Sunday tonight and on KFAN on Monday morning at 10:15 a.m.