Afternoon from Denver. I intended to get this blog up a few hours ago, but after eight days away from the beat, it's been phone call after phone call just to catch up and figure out what's going on with the team behind the scenes, and, heck, even ironing down exactly what lines guys have played on.
I did catch up with Chuck Fletcher regarding the March 5 trade deadline and many different subjects, and a lot of that will be in my Sunday column.
A reminder: It's silly season right now with the rumors. In most cases, you don't need me to confirm or refute. You're all educated hockey fans. Ask yourself first, "Does this remotely make sense?" Most of the time, you'll know if it's baloney or not.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who will miss his 13th consecutive game tonight when the Wild visits the Colorado Avalanche, took part in the pregame skate this morning. It was his first time on the ice with teammates since blocking a shot and injuring a foot Jan. 2 against Buffalo.
That was the 4-1 victory that triggered a 9-3-1 month. Spurgeon was plus-3 that game, playing 27 minutes as Ryan Suter's partner.
The plan is for Spurgeon to practice fully with contact Friday in Calgary and coach Mike Yeo said this morning during his pregame availability (I didn't make it to the rink because of a flight delay) that there's a chance Spurgeon returns Saturday night in Calgary -- a special place in Spurgeon's heart because that's where he made his NHL debut on his 21st birthday three years ago if I remember correctly.
After tonight, there are three games before the Olympic break -- in Calgary, Tuesday vs. Tampa Bay and Thursday vs. Nashville. Wild actually begins the Olympic break two days earlier than many.
Spurgeon said today that he definitely wants to get back before the Olympics because otherwise, it'd be roughly two months between games for him and the league will have ramped up. So, Saturday certainly sounds close.
Then, it'll be interesting to see Yeo's decision-making with the lineup. Nate Prosser has played great in place of Spurgeon, so one would assume he has earned the right to stay in the lineup. If Prosser stays, it'll be Keith Ballard, who at least on my iPad seems to be playing better, or Clayton Stoner.
It sounds like Mikko Koivu will ramp it up soon. He hasn't skated with the team yet. If he doesn't soon, one has to wonder if he'll be able to play in either of those home games before the Olympics. Yeo said today he doesn't want to rush him back in.
Yeo is coming back with the same lineup tonight, meaning Jason Zucker sits and Mike Rupp stays.
Again, I didn't make the morning skate, but Yeo said it's a game-to-game decision and he feels with Rupp in the lineup, it allows guys like Stoner to worry about playing defense and not going toe to toe by being the lone tough guy.
"It’s like having your big brother with you," Yeo said of Rupp's insertion into the lineup the past two games. "You feel a little bit stronger."
Zucker and Erik Haula will spend the Olympic break in Iowa playing. Technically, the Wild could send Darcy Kuemper there, too. Personally, I think that's a risk just because of Josh Harding's uncertain health situation. Kuemper is playing so well when the Wild needs him most, so to me at least, it'd be risky sending him to Iowa. Could you imagine if he got hurt? On the other hand, the other way of looking at it, it could give Kuemper the upper hand on other goalies if he's playing all Olympic break.
I'll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission. Later.