I'm back, ... well, almost.

I am airborne on my way to Denver, although I will land after the Wild’s morning skate because of a flight delay. And since Denver’s airport is in Nebraska, I will miss availability. I’ll update the blog later today after I get players this afternoon and maybe coach Mike Yeo.

I have missed four games in a row, but by watching from afar, the lineup’s all but set anyway. The team is 9-3-1 this month, has gotten five of six points in the past three games against three of the league’s powerhouses, so Darcy Kuemper’s in the cage.

The only lineup decision will presumably be Mike Rupp or Jason Zucker. I’ll update later with that answer. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen the past three games, especially the game in Anaheim, where the Wild severely outchanced the Ducks and beat them decisively.

Kuemper was great, but most impressive, even when you knew guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry would pressure late, the Wild was never on its heels. In fact, maybe the most impressive shift of the game came late when Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund munched a minute of clock in the offensive zone.

As you know, in this conference, the Wild needs to keep its foot on the gas tonight against Colorado and Saturday in Calgary.

If you've missed me -- or not, I will be on Fox Sports North during tonight's pregame show and first intermission. Also, another Star Tribune Chalk Talk with Wes Walz and myself is Tuesday night before the Wild's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. For tickets to the Chalk Talk and the game, please go to www.wild.com/chalktalk.

I typically feel like I lose touch with the team when I miss two days in a row, let alone eight, so I’m excited to get back into the swing of things and delve myself into work again. My first six years covering the NHL, I didn’t miss a single game, so you know the past week-plus wasn’t the norm.

Thanks for all the hundreds and hundreds of well wishes, particularly via email and on Twitter. I appreciate it, as does my family.

Last Tuesday, as I ate lunch in Dallas, I got a call that my stepdad, who had been in hospice since November, had taken a turn for the worse. My editors were incredible and didn’t hesitate, giving me permission to rush to the airport and get on the first flight out.

I’ve been a sportswriter for 23 years, and there’s no chance I would have gotten my start without Lenny.

When I was a teenager and started writing for the Boca News and the Sun-Sentinel, you had to wait to get your drivers’ license but you could get a drivers’ permit. That meant I could not drive at night without an adult.

So Lenny would drive with me to different high schools, sit with me as I covered games and then drive with me to the paper afterward.

As I wrote, Lenny would sit in the newspaper’s lobby reading until sometimes after midnight as I wrote.

Leonard (Lenny) Tabin

Saturday night, the Dodgers Stadium outdoors game started at about 10:15 p.m. ET. The Wild game started at 10:30 p.m.

As Lenny slept, I watched both games in the living room, offering him a little play-by-play along the way. The Wild game ended, and five minutes later, Lenny passed away.

It was kind of poignant. I’ve watched countless games on TV with Lenny over the years. I got to watch two final ones to completion.

I just want to thank Lenny’s incredible hospice team. Honestly, these special people work tirelessly and are some of the most caring folks I’ve ever met in my life. They’ll sit there for hours talking and have been incredible support for my mom.

Back in December, I was driving in Columbus, Ohio, when I got a call from my mom and Lenny asking, “How can I start a blog?”

I was like, “a what????” And they said, “a blog!”

Lenny explained that he wanted to start a blog for hospice patients that may feel like they are in helpless situations. He wanted it to be a place where they can support each other through such a tough time.

When I visited over the NHL’s Christmas break, Lenny said he wrote half his first entry and wanted my help with it. Sadly, we never did get to work on it or publish it.

Just prior to Lenny dying, I found it on his iPad. I thought I’d share it:

Another Beautiful Day

This blog is for shut ins, bedridden people and those people who wish to meet

others on the internet. Most of us have a circle of friends, family and

colleagues. We may have 3, 30, more, or less. However, we

may not be able to be in touch with these people. I believe my blog

will introduce people who understand one another and their situation. We will

share our experiences, strengths, and hopes.

My personal story is as follows: in December of 2012 I was not feeling well. My

wife convinced me to see a doctor. We found that I had Chron’s/Colitis. We began

a first tier of therapy. The therapy was not working, so we went to the next

tier. This included very expensive medications ($1100.00). On May 6th, I was a

substitute teacher for kindergarten class. My left foot hurt very much and I was

limping. At dinner time, I was unable to control my fork. I was cold and I felt

very sick. My wife and I went to the emergency room of our hospital. I was

admitted to the hospital for tests. My son flew in from Minneapolis. That night

my family was called at 2:30 in the morning to get to the hospital as soon as

possible. I had an embolism in my left calf. I was in congestive heart failure

as well. One doctor told my family that I only had 10 1/2 hours to live. Well

we proved them wrong, I was in the intensive care unit for the next eight

days. I had renal failure and was on dialysis. That worked, but I was told that I

may have cancer. No cancer, but we had to drain fluid from my lungs. After four

weeks I went to a rehabilitation center for eight weeks. I went from wheel chair

to walker and then to using a cane. I lost 55-60 pounds. I have been very

positive since this began. I was told that I am not a candidate for heart

transplant. My cardiologist recommended palliative care. We contacted a company,

Seasons hospice, this is not your grandmothers hospice. My nursing care is

extraordinary. I have an iv that regulates my heart and we have to change the

iv bag every three days. We have a music therapist who comes twice a month with

her guitar. I like Stevie Nicks and she also likes her. Their Chaplin also is

available. Our case manager has been very helpful to us. This concept of hospice

is to make your life as comfortable as possible. They look to extend life, you

are not preparing for your ultimate demise. I have taken this opportunity to

alert you, that all is not a dark road with no opportunities. Our 16th

president, Abraham Lincoln said that people are as happy as they make up their

minds to be. I know that I could just turn my back and feel very sorry for myself. I have made a choice to be as positive as possible.

--Leonard Tabin

March 18, 1941-January 26, 2014

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