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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Keith Ballard sidelined with upper-body injury

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings, Wild practice Updated: November 6, 2013 - 3:44 PM

UPDATED

Defenseman Keith Ballard did not accompany the Wild to our nation's capital this morning.

He will miss the two-game trip that starts Thursday against the Capitals and continues in Raleigh on Saturday with an upper-body injury. Coach Mike Yeo said it is in no way related to the concussion that kept him out of seven games recently and that the team has gotten Ballard checked out and it doesn't believe he'll be sidelined "long-term."

But he was in a lot of pain, Yeo said, so the team obviously left him back. Ballard was back for three games and had three assists before getting hurt again.

With the Wild in need of a right D against the Capitals, Nate Prosser will get the call. Prosser has two assists in five games and is plus-3.

He played well during a recent four-game stretch before being removed again because of the return of Ballard and Jonas Brodin on the same night against Montreal.

Coach Mike Yeo said Prosser's play warrants him getting back in and this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Matt Dumba's next game would be his 10th -- meaning his three-year contract kicks in.

Against an intimidating Caps lineup with a lights-out league best power play, Yeo said the Wild needs Prosser, who is a solid penalty killer.

Carson McMillan was reassigned.

The Wild has won six of seven. It's looking for its fourth consecutive win. It has won three in a row twice previously without winning that fourth straight, so there's one goal for Thursday.

The Wild is 1-5 all-time at Washington, being outscored 14-4 in the five losses. Its lone win was Nov. 21, 2002, by a 4-3 score.

The Caps have the best power play and best penalty kill in the NHL. It has given up one power-play goal in the past 10 games and scored four power-play goals in a 6-2 win over the Islanders on Tuesday.

So big challenge. The Wild has the second-best power play in the NHL.

"Our power play's been very good this year, too, so we should take it as a chanllenge that it’s us against them," Yeo said. "Likewise our penalty kill, it’s a good opportunity to go out there and prove we can continue to go in the right direction. It'll be a challenge. First and foremost, we have to be focused on staying out of the box."

Ryan Suter is coming off his best game in a long time. Two assists in 30-plus minutes and great defensively.

"Some of the plays he made, just watching it, you can't help but marvel," Yeo said.

I talked to Dany Heatley about being on the fourth line. That will be in Thursday's notebook in the paper, as well as a feature on the always fun Nate Schmidt, the former Gophers star D who has played 11 games and is on Washington's top defense pair with Mike Green.

Fun story to write. I also have a few interesting notes that'll be in Friday's game notebook.

Same forward lines against the Caps as Tuesday against Calgary. I didn't ask about the goalie, because we know Josh Harding's in net.

Be prepared, I think this Sunday column will be another blog Q&A mailbag. I will post a blog in the morning asking for questions.

I will be on KFAN at 4:15 p.m. CT and on Fox Sports North's pregame show and first intermission on Thursday. Remember, with the radio conflict with the Vikings, the Wild will be on 107.9 FM Thursday.

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