With the Wild back from the All-Star break, Guillaume Latendresse returned to practice Monday after missing 32 of the past 34 games with a concussion. Prior to practice, captain Mikko Koivu, who injured his shoulder Jan. 14, skated hard with Latendresse and also shot pucks.
Coach Mike Yeo said depending on how Koivu feels, he could join the Wild on the ice for Tuesday's morning skate.
That doesn't mean either Koivu or Latendresse are imminently going to return. Yeo said both will need good practice time to get acclimated again.
But Yeo said Koivu, he thinks, is "much closer" to returning to the lineup than Latendresse. That means if Koivu goes on the upcoming road trip to practice, strength and conditioning coach Kirk Olson will travel. That'll mean Latendresse would also have to travel because of that.
Latendresse made clear though that he's back, symptom free and wants to get acclimated to the team again. Latendresse returned Dec. 13 in Winnipeg, scored a goal and lasted a total of four periods -- being lost one period into his second game Dec. 14 against Chicago.
He said it's more mental now than physical and that maybe in his first few games, he needs to be more cautious. Against Chicago, on one shift, he tried to check everything that moved and got hurt. He has not yet been cleared for contact. I'll write about Latendresse and Koivu in Tuesday's paper, so you can get more details there.
Chip Scoggins is also writing a column on how now is the time for the big guns to make significant impacts, and I'm doing a main on how now is "crunch time." So check out Tuesday's paper. Lots of puck -- to make up for the quiet last week.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who hasn't played since Jan. 4 with a concussion, has skated a few times, but "nothing strenuous," Yeo said.
Josh Harding, who has decent numbers against Nashville, will start Tuesday (4-4-1 with a 2.64 goals against average and .914 save percentage). Niklas Backstrom, who has incredible numbers vs. Colorado and particularly in Colorado, will likely start Thursday, Yeo said. From there, decisions will continue to be made.
Marek Zidlicky, Mike Lundin and Brad Staubitz will be scratched for the third game in a row.
Nick Johnson, who took part in the All-Star skills competition in Ottawa as a rookie selection, also made it back in time for practice, as did callups Chad Rau, Jed Ortmeyer and Matt Kassian. Nate Prosser, who blocked a shot up high in Colorado, practiced.
I will be on KFAN with Paul Allen live from the penalty box starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Yeo is P.A.'s first guest. I'll be joining in for the interview just to make Yeo feel at home.
Talk to you after Tuesday's skate.