Good afternoon from the Cities, where the Wild hosts the Dallas Stars tonight.

Loose, jovial skate this morning, and lots of laughs in the locker room after. We'll see if that indicates anything later on tonight.

It looks like James Sheppard will be a healthy scratch tonight. He stayed on the ice a long time this morning, and this wasn't "investing" in himself like coach Todd Richards suggested. This was a bag skate. Benoit Pouliot did not get bagged, so it appears as if he'll be in and will play center as opposed to wing. Richards and Sheppard did have a nice long chat on the ice after the normal part of the morning skate prior to the bag with assistant Dave Barr.

Eric Belanger skated and declared himself ready to go. He said he's been given the green light from the medical staff. Kim Johnsson skated. He won't play tonight, but Richards said they're aiming for potentially Tuesday in Toronto, but if not there, definitely Thursday at Tampa Bay.

I talked to Martin Havlat for awhile this morning, and he acknowledged being off to the worst start of his career. He said he does need to get more selfish and start shooting more, and for some positive imagery, he's been watching a lot of video of last year's Martin Havlat to get some good, positive vibes back into his game.

I'll write more about that in Sunday's paper.

The Stars had an optional skate. Minnesotans Matt Niskanen and Toby Petersen are back in town.

Richards talked a lot about former North Star Mike Modano this morning. Richards said that many years ago, he had a chance to skate with Modano during the summertime, he thinks, in Eden Prairie.

"I could not believe how fast he was," Richards said. "I thought I was a decent skater until I got out on the ice with him. He made me look really bad. He literally was standing probably two, three feet away from me and I would say within a span of about three strides, he was a good distance out."

Richards also talked about Wild first-round pick Nick Leddy's broken jaw with the Gophers. Leddy's out until December, and Richards said it'll be these type of lessons that'll make Leddy realize he's got to change his game a bit and can't get away with some of the things he was able to accomplish in high school. I'll try to squeeze the quotes into the paper Sunday or Monday.

Talk to you tonight. 

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Belanger skating

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