Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Brodin back in Wild lineup; Harding starts tonight

Posted by: Chris Miller under Wild news Updated: November 1, 2013 - 3:06 PM

A bit of news from the Wild’s morning skate: defenseman Jonas Brodin will play tonight against Montreal. Brodin had missed three games after taking a puck to the face on a dump-in against Nashville on Oct. 22, breaking his right cheekbone.

So that makes three players back in the lineup: Brodin, center Charlie Coyle and defenseman Keith Ballard. Coach Mike Yeo cautioned not to expect perfection from them, adding that he expects their teammates to help them get back up to speed. Ballard (concussion) missed seven games, while Coyle (sprained knee) missed 11.

Rachel Blount here at the X, subbing for Russo.

Yeo had been saying he didn’t want to bring Brodin back until he was sure that Brodin was healthy enough to stay in the lineup for good. Most of the swelling has abated, and Brodin took some contact during three-on-three drills around the net Thursday. He’s also adapted to the full-face plastic shield he will wear to protect his face. Brodin isn’t crazy about it, but he likes it better than the cage he tried earlier.

“It’s not bad,’’ said Brodin, who added that most of the pain in his face also has subsided. “It’s not the same as a half-shield. I’ll have to take it off and clean it once in a while on the bench.’’

Brodin was paired with his usual defensive partner, Ryan Suter, in Friday’s morning skate. Ballard was teamed with Clayton Stoner, and Jared Spurgeon was paired with Marco Scandella. That means Matt Dumba and Nate Prosser will sit out.

Josh Harding will be in goal tonight. Yeo said he wanted to get Harding back in as soon as possible, now that he is fully healthy, in the hopes that Harding will pick up where he left off. Before leaving the Oct. 24 game against Carolina with a lower-body injury, he had compiled a 1.00 goals-against average and a stellar .953 save percentage. He leads the NHL in both categories.

Harding, who has multiple sclerosis, won’t speak even in the most general terms about dealing with his illness. But Yeo addressed that topic today in response to a question from a Montreal reporter. “It is a challenge, no question,” Yeo said. “There’s a lot of communication. I think what it comes down to is, it’s a matter of the athlete, Josh, and the work he puts in, the commitment that he has.

“It’s a pretty impressive story. It’s obviously something that none of us can imagine trying to deal with, let alone dealing with it and trying to be a professional athlete. He comes to the rink every day and he does what he has to do as far as taking care of himself. He’s been quite a story, not just on the days when we’ve seen him be effective in the games, but in order for that to happen, you’ve got to have effective practices. You have to have quality ice time. He does that day in and day out.’’

As the Wild try out their new lines for the first time in a game, Yeo said he isn’t sure how he will alternate Dany Heatley and Justin Fontaine. The two wingers will switch off between the first line, with Coyle and Zach Parise, and the fourth, with Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. The frequency is the question, and Yeo wants to see how each of them performs before committing to a plan.

“It might be shift to shift or period to period,’’ Yeo said. “I wish I could tell you exactly how it’s going to work out. What I can say is that both guys are going to get an opportunity (on the top line), and then I would have to say the game will dictate where it goes from there.

“It would be nice, certainly, to have a guy and plug him in. We want to see how each guy is performing not only with that line, but it also affects our fourth line as well. So I think it’s going to be one of those things where the game dictates it.’’

Other notes from the morning skate:

--Yeo said Coyle’s biggest adjustment will be adapting to the increased speed of the game. The tempo has picked up since Coyle went out in the second game of the season, on Oct. 5. Particularly against the speedy Canadiens, Yeo said, Coyle will have to get used to making quick decisions with and without the puck.

--On the Canadiens’ side, enforcer George Parros will rejoin the lineup. Last time we saw him, he had crashed to the ice like a redwood, going face-down and sustaining a concussion during a fight with Toronto’s Colton Orr in the season opener Oct. 1. Parros said after the morning skate that he feels good after being careful not to rush his return.

He also said he felt “sleeker, faster and less manly’’ after shaving his glorious mustache, recognized as one of the NHL’s finest. Parros got rid of the ‘stache to prepare to grow a new one beginning today for the NHL’s “Movember’’ campaign, which raises money and awareness for cancers that affect men. In January, he will cut his long hair to raise funds to fight childhood leukemia. Good to know there is another side to a guy who bills himself as an “on-ice assailant’’ in his Twitter biography.

--Zenon Konopka is the Wild’s “Mo Bros’’ captain for the Movember movement. Looking around the room Friday, Konopka acknowledged the Wild has an uphill battle on the facial-hair front, with so many smooth-cheeked guys. “We really struggle,’’ he said. “We’re definitely in the bottom three teams in the league for Movember.’’

--Several fathers of Canadiens players were at the skate, many wearing sweaters that replicated the ones their sons wear. They’re taking part in Montreal’s father-son road trip, which includes tonight’s game at Xcel and a game Saturday at Colorado.

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