Refreshing to be down at the X this morning because folks were in a genuinely good mood. That's been a rarity since Dec. 13 -- a.k.a. the season's turning point.
Coming off a 2-0 win over Vancouver and off until it hosts Calgary on Thursday, the Wild had an optional practice this morning. Most players had an off-ice workout, but 10 guys or so went on the ice, including captain Mikko Koivu, who has missed 15 consecutive games with a shoulder injury.
I think Koivu has a good chance to return Thursday as long as he has a good practice Wednesday, but coach Mike Yeo wasn't tipping his hand. He did indicate that Josh Harding, coming off a 33-save shutout, would likely start against the Flames because of that shutout. Originally, the plan was to play Niklas Backstrom.
But with back-to-back games at Buffalo and Washington on Saturday and Sunday, both goalies will start a game, Yeo said, meaning Backstrom will make his first start since hurting his groin March 1 in Montreal.
I'll likely write about Erik Christensen for Thursday's paper because for Wednesday, I wrote a pretty unbelievable story about Devin Setoguchi that you all will want to check out.
For Christensen, he is starting to feel a lot more comfortable obviously thanks to four goals in his past four games. He had no points in his first 15 games after coming over from the Rangers and never in his wildest nightmare thought it would take him so long to rediscover his game after being scratched for essentially two months with New York.
He said he thought it would take a week max, and when his game didn't come, he started to feel the pressure, started to press and cheat and paid the price bigtime with terrible play and finally forcing Yeo to scratch him.
He was a terrific quote today talking about his struggles and how he dug himself out of the black hole he had been in the past month.
As I wrote in the Feb. 5 paper, Christensen "is known as a player tormented by his own expectations and sometimes he gets weighed down by the pressure he puts on himself." He basically said that verbatim today, saying it's something he's been dealing with his entire career and often times the fact he critiques every facet of his game has an adverse effect.
He finally slowed the game down, especially in his own end, stopped thinking about scoring goals, concentrated on being better defensively and because of that, the goals have come.
Now, the player who wears exactly how he's feeling everyday on his face is much looser, not nearly as uptight and feeling comfortable in his surroundings. He's more assertive in every area of the ice and his game has been impressive the last four or five games. More on this in Thursday's paper.