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Wild defenseman Mike Lundin

Bruce Kluckhohn, NHLI via Getty Images

Wild's Lundin itching to put on his skates

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • October 19, 2011 - 1:01 AM

Every morning, as his Wild teammates hit the ice for practice, Mike Lundin steps out of the locker room dripping with sweat from an off-ice workout.

He hits the shooting cage, where he fires puck after puck into a gaping net.

But Lundin has yet to slip on a Wild sweater. He has yet to take the ice for a Wild practice.

A back injury has kept the 27-year-old defenseman from participating in anything. This is not how the former Apple Valley star wanted his Minnesota return to start.

"It was frustrating after the first couple days, and that was a few weeks ago," said Lundin, who played four seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. "It's a mental battle every day just trying to keep your cool and watch the guys work hard and play hard together.

"Just watching from the outside is definitely tough."

Lundin said progress has been "real slow."

"It's hard to tell day by day the improvement, but you look back like a week ago, and there's improvement," he said. "It's frustrating, though, because you don't clearly see the results. It's only a short ways I have to come now, but it takes awhile and I have to get there. Otherwise, I'll just be injured all year."

Lundin is not allowed to skate yet because each time he has tried it set the injury back. He keeps asking for a timetable "and they keep giving me one. But that just makes it more frustrating when you don't attain it. But the best- case scenario is skating in a week or two. I'm trying not to get my hopes up."

Money matters

It's customary when players face a former team to throw "money on the board." That amount typically goes to the player who scores the winning goal or into a fund used for team parties.

In the past, coaches and assistants have secretly done the same thing. But last year, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson got in trouble when cameras caught him paying off the sum after a victory against his old team, San Jose.

This was against NHL rules, and the Maple Leafs were fined.

The hot water Wilson got into gave Wild coach Mike Yeo the perfect excuse when a "few guys approached" him to put money on the board against the Penguins, the team he was an assistant for from 2005-2010.

"I'm going to use that one for sure," Yeo said, slyly. "Can't do it now."

Etc.

• Conditioning was a big theme for the Wild this offseason. It wasn't simply because GM Chuck Fletcher said four players arrived at last year's training camp "at a level that was not appropriate for an NHL player."

It's because a big part of Yeo's plan is to grind teams down so the Wild can run away from teams in the third period. But six games into the season, Yeo said the Wild still has a long way to go.

"I give our guys a lot of credit for the conditioning that we came in to camp, but still at this time of year, we don't have the conditioning that I believe that we will have," Yeo said.

"We're still striving to be a team that should take the game over in the third period.

"I think we have another level to get to there. So our practices have to be tough."

• Nick Johnson, a former Penguin claimed off waivers last month, didn't get to play his former team. The Wild winger was scratched for a third game in a row.

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