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 returns to Twin Cities; injury puts roster in a bit of flux

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild practice Updated: November 24, 2013 - 3:53 PM

Good afternoon from chilly St. Louieee, where the Wild faces the big, bad Blues on Monday night at the house formerly called, Kiel Center.

Josh Harding, who was hurt in warmups Saturday in Winnipeg, returned to the Twin Cities this morning on a commercial flight from St. Louis. The MRI on his left leg “checked out,” according to Mike Yeo, meaning it was negative. Harding had one more doctor’s appointment this afternoon.

Apparently, Harding sustained some kind of spasms during warmup. It didn’t happen from stepping on a puck, as some reported.

The team is hoping Harding lets them know later today if he thinks he can return to St. Louis on Monday and back up Niklas Backstrom. The reason why this is important?

The Wild’s at the max 23-man roster – 14 forwards (includes Mike Rupp; activated off IR to make him eligible for conditioning stint to Iowa), 7 defensemen, 2 goalies.

Mikael Granlund, who missed yesterday’s game in Winnipeg with an upper-body injury, didn’t practice for the second consecutive practice today. If he can’t play against the Blues, the only way the Wild can call up a forward is to place Torrey Mitchell (leg) on injured reserve. But if Harding can’t back up, Mitchell will be placed on IR so Darcy Kuemper is officially added to the roster to back up.

If that were the case, the Wild will either have to dress seven defensemen (Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba) again like Winnipeg or Rupp, expected to join the Wild after playing five games for Iowa on a conditioning stint that ended yesterday, would have to make his season debut. Reports are Rupp did get better every game but that he looked slow with his skating (not that Rupp’s ever been a speedster, especially with the recent knee issues).

“Everything seems good,” Yeo said of Harding. “If he feels good enough, we’re hoping he can back up tomorrow. But again, comfort wise, his pain tolerance, he has to be able to go out and perform if needed to.”

Yeo hasn’t ruled out Granlund against the Blues, but he hasn’t been on the ice since the Ottawa game. I asked Granlund to talk today, but he didn’t want to. He’s showing no signs of an obvious injury. I asked Yeo if it’s a concussion – he’s played four games since the Nazem Kadri head shot, but he was crushed into the boards by Marc Methot in Ottawa – and Yeo just said it’s an upper-body injury and wouldn’t say when it happened or how or what.

Jared Spurgeon didn’t practice today, but Yeo says he expects him to be in the lineup Monday night.

Yeo said in his mind, Keith Ballard isn’t ready, plus for Ballard to play, two players would have to go on IR.

Yeo said all lineup decisions will be made Monday, and again, a lot has to do with how Harding feels and if he returns to St. Louis.

Beginning Monday in St. Louis, nine of the Wild’s next 11 games come against the top five teams in the Western Conference and the current eighth-place team – in order, Anaheim, Chicago, St. Louis, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix. Those six teams are a combined 95-26-14 (.756).

Of those teams, the Wild has only played Anaheim and Chicago this season, going a combined 1-1-1.

So by mid-December, we’ll all get a really good sense of the Wild.

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