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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Wild return to practice

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: February 24, 2010 - 4:33 PM

By Chip Scoggins

Hello everyone. This is Chip Scoggins filling in for Russo this week. The Wild returned to practice Wednesday after their Olympic break and went through about a 45-minute skate at St. Thomas. They ended practice with a 3-on-3 session.

Clayton Stoner was the only player who didn't participate, but he skated earlier in the day and could practice with the team either Thursday or Friday. Stoner is recovering from sports hernia surgery. He had the surgery in Munich , Germany, by the way. That struck me as odd that a guy from Canada would travel to Germany for sports hernia surgery. I was hoping to ask him why today, but a team rep said the surgeon in Germany guarantees a faster recovery time. I'll hopefully get more info on that in the next few days.

Anyway, I talked to a handful of players about what they did on their break and how it felt getting back on the ice today.

Greg Zanon went to Florida for eight days and got back in town Tuesday night. He spent part of the vacation on a cruise and also took his two young kids to Disney World for the first time.

"I definitely took a couple of days off and didn't think about hockey at all," he said. "I think it's good for the guys. The guys had bumps and bruises. We've played a lot of games. Guys just need time to let their bodies rest up and heal and get ready for these last 21."

Andrew Brunette went to Mexico and "sat on the beach for five days" and said he didn't think about hockey.

"For me that is quite remarkable," he said. "You come back Saturday and you put the TV on and watch some Olympic hockey. You get right back in the mindset. But there was no hockey on any of the channels where I was so it was kind of a nice break."

The players said the break helped them as much mentally as it did physically.

"Absolutely," Brunette said. "I thought the last month we were mentally and physically kind of playing a little bit inconsistent hockey. So I think the break was real good for the body and the mind. Now we have 21 games to make some hay here."

Several injured players obviously welcomed the extra rest. Chuck Kobasew, who sprained the ACL and MCL in his left knee in late December, said his knee is doing better and is hopeful that he'll be able to play when the Wild returns to action next Wednesday at Calgary.

"I feel good so far," he said. "We have a week of practices here. I’ll be doing all the stuff that the guys are doing. ... We have seven days of practice and I’ll really test it out here and see where we get to."

"It was nice the timing of [the break]," Kobasew added. "But I skated and did my stuff during the break. It gave me an extra 10 to 15 days to get things stronger. Just a little extra time."

Goalie Josh Harding, who has been sidelined because of a left hip injury, said he did nothing but rest during the break.

"They said to keep off it," he said. "Just rest it. Today went good and hopefully it will continue. I tried hard and pushed it a little bit. Everything felt good. ... I went out there and played like I usually do and it held up so hopefully it holds up for the rest of the season." 

Several players said the first day back on the ice was tough.

"It was the first day back jitters," Zanon said. "Your equipment doesn't feel right. It's nice to be back and I think guys are ready to get back at it. We know what we have ahead of us. It's not going to be an easy road so we have to be mentally prepared."

Said Brunette: "Hurt a little bit. You get the lungs and legs going. But the last few days I've been antsy to get going again."

The Wild will resume play in 13th position in the Western Conference standings, five points behind eighth-place Calgary. They will tie a franchise record with 16 games in March, including three sets of road back-to-backs.

"Obviously we would like to be in a playoff spot but we're still in the hunt," Brunette said. "Five points out. These last 21 games we have to make sure right from the get-go that we're ready to go because it's a sprint."

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