James Sheppard, who broke his left kneecap before training camp, has been cleared to practice and the first one came today, although it was as optional a practice as you can get -- Guillaume Latendresse, Chuck Kobasew, Jared Spurgeon, Brad Staubitz and Cody Almond, with assistants Dave Barr and Darby Hendrickson.

Still, it was a big step for Sheppard who continues to progress. He'll travel and is looking forward to a couple morning skates in real NHL visitor rinks, he said.

Sheppard's a way off and said he'll let his body tell him when he's ready to return. Again, that's still a far-fetched scenario right now. First, he's still not on the roster. He's suspended due to his ATV accident before camp. Second, a lot would have to happen for the Wild to actually put him in the lineup, especially since he can't be sent to the minors after the trade deadline unless he's been cleared to play. That's next Monday. The best thing for him would be to be put on waivers and sent to Houston, so we'll see if he's cleared to play by then. But that would be very surprising to me since Sheppard said he still doesn't feel he has enough muscle build on that left leg, although it's coming.

Cam Barker got hurt last night. Mid to upper body, Barr said, and because the Wild's going to California, it wants to carry an extra defenseman. Looks like Elk River's Nate Prosser will get his first recall of the season. 

On my way to LA. Talk to you tomorrow, barring news later today. 

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