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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Josh Harding talks about recent absence from Wild's lineup; Zach Parise skates

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: January 14, 2014 - 12:16 PM

Wild goalie Josh Harding, who took part in the Wild’s morning skate today in preparation for tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators, talked this morning to the media for the first time since his Dec. 31 start against the Blues.

Harding will miss his seventh consecutive game today and 11th in the past 13 games since having his treatment altered for multiple sclerosis.

He had not been feeling well, and while Harding didn’t get into specifics, he certainly intimated this was MS-related many times during his press gathering and said he’s feeling well now.

“I wasn’t feeling good,” Harding said. “If I felt even a little bit like I could play, I would have. But there are some things that are out of my control and I thought we did everything that is in our control to get back to where we are right now.

“Like I said, it was out of my control.”

Harding plans to practice with the Wild for the first time Wednesday. Asked how long he thinks it’ll take him to get back in the lineup, Harding said, “I’ve been working out hard with our strength coach, Kirk Olson. While the team’s been gone, I’ve been on the ice. Now it’s just a matter of getting the reps in and getting back, finding a rhythm and getting in control.”

Harding is 18-7-3 (18-5-3 before he left the team Dec. 18). He still leads the NHL with a 1.65 goals-against average and is second with a .933 save percentage.

He doesn’t want to look at what-ifs, but he admits the timing of this was awful.

“When you’re playing good, when you’ve got that rhythm, when you’re getting in there and finally getting the chance, you want to run with it,” Harding said. “Again, there are some things that are out of my control and I’m just happy with how we all dealt with it and figured out what we could control and did it.”

On how happy that the Wild has won five of six since he left the team, Harding said, “They’ve been playing awesome. I need to work hard to not be the weak link when I get back. Kuemps and Backy have been dynamite.”

Speaking of “Kuemps and Backy,” Darcy Kuemper will get a second consecutive start and third in five games tonight against Ottawa. Kuemper is coming off a 23-save shutout at Nashville and has stopped 62 of 63 shots in the past two games (excluding his four in a shootout at L.A.).

“He looks much more composed and in control in the net,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It was evident in the shootout how confident he is when he made that save on [Mike] Richards (referring to how Kuemper coolly flipped the puck out of his glove). Earlier this year, he had a bit of a deer in headlights look. He’s delivered.”

Kuemper looked cool, calm and collected before his first home start of the season. He was shooting the breeze with teammates all post-skate in the locker room.

Same lines tonight and D pairs as the last three games and a period (Yeo changed the lines right before the rally in L.A., after Jarrett Stoll made it 1-0). That means Mike Rupp and Keith Ballard will be scratched.

I talked to Ballard this morning and will have his quotes in Wednesday’s paper regarding what he feels about being scratched in four straight games. Basically, he understands Yeo not wanting to change the lineup right now and admits he’s got to be better.

Zach Parise skated for the first time today. He will miss his 11th straight game and is still a ways away from returning.

Jared Spurgeon is expected to skate by the weekend and Mikko Koivu is progressing.

Brett Bulmer will miss six to eight weeks with a sprained ankle and sprained knee. Much better diagnosis than initially feared. He’s in Des Moines rehabbing.

I’m about to join Sirius/XM at 12:25 p.m. for a little radio

I am doing the Star Tribune Chalk Talk tonight with Wes Walz at 5:30 p.m. If you want tickets to that and the Senators game or future Chalk Talks, go to www.wild.com/chalktalk. I’ll also be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission tonight.

On Wednesday, I will be filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN from 9-noon, so please tune in and call in.

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