Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner returned to practice Monday for the first time in 4 1/2 weeks and was scheduled to accompany the team on its two-game road trip.

Stoner has not played since Feb. 2 because of a hip injury. He said his conditioning felt good and that regaining his timing is the next step before he's ready to return to the lineup.

"It was good to be back on the ice with the team," he said. "Felt pretty good. Don't think I'm ready to be in a game just yet. With a month off, you've got to get your timing back and get up to speed."

Coach Mike Yeo was pleased by how Stoner looked in practice, but he didn't want to commit to a timetable on his return.

"We definitely don't want to put him in a tough spot," Yeo said. "We're going to make sure that he's not going to injure it any further if he comes back in and that we give him a chance to play well."

Stoner, who has appeared in only 39 games this season, has skated individually in recent weeks as he rehabbed his injury. He was relieved to finally practice with his teammates after a long layoff.

"Time just ticks by when you're injured," he said. "You're not around the guys as much. Skating with our trainer makes things run a little smoother when you get out there. The conditioning isn't there but I didn't let it drop too much. ... It's fun to be back with the guys and feel like you're part of the team again and know that you're on the path to recovery."

In other injury news, forward Nick Palmieri (upper body) practiced and is questionable for Tuesday's game at Colorado. Palmieri did not play in Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Avalanche.

Slow start blues

The Wild has fallen into a bad habit of digging itself a hole by allowing a goal early in the first period in recent games. Yeo said his team has failed to respond positively when that happens.

"That's something we have to overcome," he said. "Well, let's overcome giving up a goal on the first shift of the game first of all. But we have to react better if it happens. Things happen through the course of a game. We were much stronger earlier in the year at dealing with these types of things. Part of that is the confidence that we had. When we were rolling and had everybody in the lineup, we knew we could overcome those things. Now the question marks are there in our own heads."


• Yeo didn't announce his starting goalie for Tuesday, but he said he liked what he saw from Houston call-up Matt Hackett in Sunday's 2-0 loss. "I thought he played a really good game," Yeo said. "I can't blame him on those first two goals at all. Certainly it would have been -- I don't want to say easy -- a lot of goalies in that situation would shrink down and maybe get a little deeper in their net. I saw quite the opposite. It looked like he was willing to rise to that challenge and he started to be aggressive in there."

• Defenseman Justin Falk missed practice Monday and didn't make the road trip because of a leg injury. Kurtis Foster, scratched Sunday, will replace him.

• Chad Rau was reassigned to Houston of the AHL.