EDMONTON, ALBERTA – Mikko Koivu had another good day on the ice Wednesday as he tries to return from ankle surgery, but Wild coach Mike Yeo indicated the center might not be ready to play Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
Thursday’s game is the first of back-to-back games (the Wild plays in Vancouver on Friday), and Yeo said, “back-to-back games might be tough for him. Those are the things that we’d have to consider along with making sure that he’s 100 percent. I know speaking to him, he’s not quite there yet so we’ll see after [Thursday morning].”
Olympians Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund practiced Wednesday for the first time since returning from Sochi, and Parise said, “the legs felt a little heavy.” He said sleeping has been difficult since returning Monday morning, but he said there’s no excuse: “It’s make-or-break time.”
Yeo said, “You can tell they’ve been playing at a high speed over there, and I expect them to step right in where they left off.”
Parise skated on the left side of Granlund and Jason Pominville on Wednesday, while Dany Heatley skated with Charlie Coyle and Justin Fontaine. Kyle Brodziak centered Matt Cooke and Nino Niederreiter, while Stephane Veilleux, recalled from Iowa of the AHL, played on the left side of Erik Haula and Torrey Mitchell.
Backstrom practices, might start vs. Oilers
Goalie Niklas Backstrom (abdominal soreness) practiced Wednesday. If he’s healthy, Yeo indicated that he’s considering starting Backstrom against the Oilers and Darcy Kuemper in Friday’s game at Vancouver. The rationale is Backstrom is 8-3-1 all-time in Edmonton, 6-8-3 all-time in Vancouver and the Wild is battling against the Canucks for a playoff spot.
“We haven’t made a decision on the starting goalie yet, so we’ll talk to him and then go from there,” Yeo said.
John Curry was called up from Iowa in case Backstrom can’t dress during the trip.
• The Wild traded minor league defenseman Brian Connelly to the Chicago Blackhawks for rugged winger Brad Winchester on Wednesday. Winchester reported to Iowa, but the move was made to add depth and toughness at the NHL level if the Wild needs it.
Winchester, 32, a 6-5, 230-pound native of Madison, Wis., and former Badgers teammate of Heatley, has 68 points and 552 penalty minutes in 390 NHL games for Edmonton, Dallas, St. Louis, Anaheim and San Jose.
“He’s big and strong and he fights lots,” said Brodziak, a former teammate of Winchester.
Winchester also has played 24 playoff games, scoring an overtime winner against Detroit in the first round in 2006 when the Oilers went to the Stanley Cup Final.
“He’s a hard-nosed guy, he’s a guy that’s not fun to play against and he’s got that experience, so definitely a good move for us,” Yeo said.
• Defenseman Marco Scandella (sprained knee) will miss Thursday’s game.
“He’s taking on more in practice and is looking better and better, but we’ve got six healthy guys ready to go, so there’s no reason to rush him,” Yeo said.