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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Koivu cleared for contact, Cullen does not practice

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under Wild practice Updated: March 15, 2012 - 2:35 PM

The Wild bussed over to St. Thomas Academy for practice today, and Mikko Koivu emerged without the red no-contact sweater he has been wearing since he returned to practicing with the team.

So what does that mean?

Greetings. Kent Youngblood here. I was at practice today, will attend again tomorrow and will have the game Saturday. 

Koivu, who has been out since Feb. 16 after re-injuring his shoulder, has been cleared for contact. And he went hard today in an up-tempo practice that included some battle drills.

"I thought there was a good pace to the practice, and some battle drills," Koivu said. "So it was definitely more fun than skating alone or (with a no-contact sweater)."

Wild coach Mike Yeo, though, wasn't about to say Koivu could play Saturday. 

"He looked really good," Yeo said. "We'll see how he feels afterward. These were the first battle drills. We'll see how it goes today, tonight. We're not going to put him in a bad spot. ... We want to give him a chance to get into those battles, to get comfortable with them again and make sure he has full confidence that, next time he hits the ice, he can do those things without any problems."

Yeo said Koivu would practice again Friday before any decision is made. 

In other news:

--Center Matt Cullen, who is sore after a knee-to-knee hit with Brenden Morrow in the Dallas game -- a hit Yeo didn't like one bit -- missed practice today. Yeo said Friday will be a big day for Cullen, as the team will not have a pre-game skate before Saturday's matinee against Carolina. 

Still, should Cullen be unable to skate Friday, he could still skate Saturday if he feels good, Yeo said. 

--Josh Harding and Devin Setocuchi both missed practice today. Harding needed an extra day, Yeo said. Harding should be at practice Friday. Setoguchi got a maintenance day.

--Goalie Niklas Backstrom (lower body) was able to take full part in practice today, a very good sign. The Wild brought along Darcy Kuemper in case Backstrom got sore or tired. But the veteran, who has missed six games, held out well. There is a chance he could be ready Saturday.

 

That's about it. Have a good afternoon

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