The mood in the Minnesota Wild's locker room after practice Friday at Xcel Energy Center was pretty relaxed.
Well, with this song on the playlist rotation, how could it not be?
Defenseman Matt Dumba and winger Mikael Granlund even played a couple rounds of "Odds" that ended with Dumba having to take off Granlund's skates for him. (I call the game "Odds Are." It's where you dare someone to do something, that person name's his/her odds, and then if you both say the same number between those odds after a count of three, the person has to do the dare. It's fantastic fun.)
After a big 6-4 home victory Thursday that helped the Wild to 3-3-2, that lighthearted mood seemed allowable. But coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't want those good feelings lingering too long, as the Wild face the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"It’s one game," Boudreau said. "If you get too excited about winning your third game of the year when you’re still in last place, I think you can only go downhill from there. "
Fair enough. Back to business on the ice, five players were missing. Forwards Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise were still out, recovering from their long-term leg and back injuries, respectively. Forwards Matt Cullen and Mikko Koivu weren't skating, but they were in the building, likely on a maintenance day. And forward Jason Zucker was excused as his wife was due to give birth to a son Friday morning.
Winger Nino Niederreiter skated for the second day back in practice after a high ankle sprain back on Oct. 12. But his return is still in question.
“He’s getting better. I don’t know if tomorrow’s the day or if Tuesday’s the day because ankle sprains are weird things," Boudreau said. "I guess it depends on him and his confidence and what John [Worley] says and what Chuck [Fletcher] says. We’ll be happy to have him back any time he can come back, but I just don’t know the date that that’s going to happen.”
Niederreiter, at least, is feeling pretty good.
"We do so much bike, and I feel like I'm in great shape," he said. "At the end of the day, you can feel great off the ice, but it's like a summer training when the first time you feel like you haven't done anything all summer. When you get on the ice, obviously, there's different muscles that you have to use and kind of trust in the ankle again. It's a good step and today. I felt good, so we'll see how tomorrow goes."