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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Backstrom misses practice, Scandella returns to practice

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: February 25, 2014 - 1:32 PM

As veteran goalie Niklas Backstrom indicated last week, the Wild figured out what's going on with his abdominal issues and it's something he'll have to deal with for the rest of the season.

Backstrom saw the surgeon who repaired his sports hernia last offseason during the Olympic break and was given some new treatment plans. However, Backstrom reported soreness this morning, so the Wild gave him a maintenance day off. The hope, coach Mike Yeo said, is Backstrom can practice Wednesday in Edmonton and start one of the next two games (almost certainly Friday in Vancouver).

"It’s not lower body and it’s not upper body. It’s somewhere in the mid part of the body," Yeo joked when asked if it's more of the abdominal stiffness. "Yeah, he was a little sore today. I expect him on [Wednesday]. We kept him off today, just precautionary."

Yeo said hopefully the soreness just has to do with being on the ice a lot after such a long time off for the Olympic break.

"We probably won’t know for a couple more days [if it's just general soreness], but hopefully he can get on the ice [Wednesday] and be fine," Yeo said. "We’ve pushed the goalies hard, doing a lot of extra drills with those guys and hopefully this is just something where he’s a little bit sore and just needed a day today."

Asked how the Wild continues to deal with this (remember, the trade deadline is March 5, and while the Wild as of now looks like it'll continue to ride Darcy Kuemper, the pressure may be on GM Chuck Fletcher to get further insurance before the deadline in case Backstrom continues to be labored or Kuemper gets hurt), Yeo said, "Day by day, the same way we’ve been doing it all along. I think we’ll have a better idea [Wednesday] how he comes out of this. Obviously two games coming up here, it would be real nice to have him 100 percent and healthy and ready to go."

There's been no change with Josh Harding's status.

How do the Wild continue to keep Kuemper grounded? Yeo said, "Just make sure we stay on him a little bit to make sure he stays sharp, stays sharp on his game. We’re working him hard in practice to make sure he’s got the right habits. It says a lot about him and the attitude that he has that he hasn’t gotten complacent and comfortable. But at the same time, we’ve got to make sure that we’re on him with that. On the flip side, when things aren’t going too well, we’ve got to help him through that. Certainly he’s getting a lot of attention from us right now and I think that’s going to be important the rest of the way."

Defenseman Marco Scandella, who sprained an MCL on Feb. 4, practiced for the first time today. He took part in most drills, although he left the ice a little early.

Scandella was asked if he could maybe play Thursday in Edmonton.

"I haven’t thought of any options," he said. "I just know it’s getting a lot better. Today was a big step and I just want to continue on that road."

He said his conditioning isn't 100 percent after two weeks off. He's been skating on his own for about six days now, he said.

Yeo said of Scandella, "I was actually a little bit surprised with how much Marco participated in our practice and what he was able to do out there. Very good sign."

He said Thursday is a "possibility" for Scandella, but "I wouldn’t say it’s a probability, so we’ll see. This was one practice that he’s had and obviously he’s been off for a considerable amount of time given the break, which was obviously good for the healing of the leg. But at the same time, we’ve got to make sure we get his timing back and get him up to speed and conditioning, where that needs to be too. So we’ll see."

Mikko Koivu, working his way back from ankle surgery, said today was another good day. "Hopefully another [Wednesday], and then we'll see" for Thursday.

Yeo said, "Mikko continues to get better. He’s getting closer. I don’t think we can make a decision here until we get probably to Thursday, but all we can do right now is keep pushing Mikko as hard as we can and keep seeing how he responds to that."

If Koivu returns, I'd think the lines go:

Parise-Granlund-Pominville

Heatley-Koivu-Coyle

Cooke-Brodziak-Niederreiter

Mitchell-Haula-Fontaine

Total shot in the dark guess. Maybe Brodziak and Haula flip. Or maybe the Wild start Koivu on the third line and Haula on the second in order to ease Koivu back in. We'll see.

If Koivu isn't going to play Thursday, the Wild either will have to play Mike Rupp on the trip or call up another forward with Jason Zucker hurt.

Parise, Granlund and Ryan Suter will return to practice Wednesday in Edmonton.

Talk to you after practice in Edmonton on Wednesday.

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