Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the swelling in his nose subsiding and the bruises mostly gone, was back on the ice Sunday, skating full speed during the Wild practice. Also on the Xcel Energy Center ice was captain Mikko Koivu.
Well, guardedly, yes.
The Wild, missing four of its top six forwards in Saturday's shootout loss to the Islanders, had two back for practice. But that doesn't mean they'll be in the lineup Monday as the team begins a three-game stretch against Northwest Division foes leading up to the holiday break.
Both remain day-to-day, and coach Mike Yeo is not expecting them to play against the Canucks.
"I have to go into these games expecting not to have them," Yeo said. "It's easier to adjust that way. If we get them, then we'll be pretty happy about that."
Bouchard broke his nose when he was hit from behind late in the Wild's game at Winnipeg last Tuesday. Koivu pulled up with a leg injury late in the Wild's shootout loss to Chicago on Wednesday. As top players have been injured, the team has found it more and more difficult to mount a consistent offense.
Not knowing for sure whether either Koivu or Bouchard will be able to play, the Wild made a number of personnel moves Sunday.
Center Cody Almond was sent back to Houston, and right wing Casey Wellman was put on injured reserve because of a sore right wrist.
And that meant more call-ups from Houston. On the way to meet the Wild in Vancouver were forwards Chad Rau and Jed Ortmeyer.
Ortmeyer is tied for the Houston team lead with a plus-11 rating. He has six goals and 10 assists. Rau, the Eden Prairie native who played at Colorado College, could make his NHL debut in Vancouver. If that happens, Rau would become the sixth native Minnesotan to play for the Wild this season. Rau had 13 goals and 40 points for the Aeros last season.
"He's a guy with some skill offensively, and he's a smart player," Yeo said. "He did a great job for us last year. And, from what I've heard, he has picked up this year right where he left off last year. He's been a real key guy down in Houston."
The Wild will need all hands on deck for the upcoming stretch -- particularly against Vancouver, which appears to have found itself after a slow start. The Canucks had a stretch in which they won nine of 10 games before two losses. But they got back on track with a victory over Toronto Saturday and stand just five points behind the Wild in the division.
"They were a Stanley Cup finals team last year, so you knew they'd find their way eventually," Cal Clutterbuck said. "That doesn't change what we have to do, our approach, or anything like that."
But the return of a talented forward or two wouldn't hurt.
After practice Bouchard said he felt good. "Today was a good practice. I felt OK."
Bouchard said he was actually close to playing Saturday night, but didn't feel quite 100 percent.Notes
• The Wild held a rather lengthy practice Sunday, spending a lot of time working on getting pucks to the net. The Wild struggled to get shots against the Islanders until the final period.
"We need to simplify things," Clutterbuck said. "We need to get pucks north, behind the defense and put pressure on [other teams]."
• Defenseman Marco Scandella, who took a puck off an ankle against the Islanders, said he is 100 percent.