If all goes according to plan, Josh Harding could be suiting up for games with the Houston Aeros next weekend.
The Wild goaltender rejoined his teammates for practice Wednesday for the first time in two months. He looked amazingly good for somebody who hadn’t taken consistent shots from NHL players since Feb. 11.
“I felt quick,” Harding said. “I thought I was making the saves I should have made. Each day’s a new step, but I’m definitely happy on how today went. I felt like my old self, which is good to feel like.”
Harding has been sidelined since his body responded poorly to new medication needed to treat multiple sclerosis.
“We think we got it all dialed in and we’re excited for the future,” Harding said.
The Wild wants to monitor how Harding’s groins and hips handle the workload the next week, but Harding isn’t worried and said, “I don’t think it can take too, too long” to get back into game mode. To get his mind ready, he has already begun watching video daily.
If all goes well, the hope is that he can head to Houston on a conditioning stint to play two of the Aeros’ last three AHL regular-season games, likely next Friday and Sunday at Texas and Oklahoma City.
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Harding said. “It’s a great feeling. I might have chirped a couple too many people while I was out. They were gunning for me today. I was all fun. I thought I held my own. I’m definitely on the right track.”
Sticking with Stoner
Despite Clayton Stoner’s rocky play of late and turnover that led to Marian Hossa’s winning goal Tuesday against Chicago, coach Mike Yeo will continue to stick with Stoner and play the hard-nosed defenseman Thursday against St. Louis.
“This is a guy that helped get us to this point,” Yeo said. “I just talked to him and it’s very important he’s able to push [Tuesday’s mistake] aside. We’re playing against a hard team [Thursday] and we have to be ready to play a hard game.”
Veteran Tom Gilbert, scratched the past two games, is expected to return and be paired with Justin Falk, while Brett Clark and Nate Prosser will be scratched.
• Former Gophers leading scorer Erik Haula, who signed a two-year deal starting in 2013-14 with the Wild on Sunday, began his pro career Wednesday night for the Houston Aeros. Against Oklahoma City, Haula centered a line with Brett Bulmer and Carson McMillan.
“He’s got a little bit of everything,” Yeo said. “He’s got some hockey sense, he’s got some compete, he’s got some skill. It’ll be interesting to see how he can jump right into the pro game.”
• Jason Zucker was named to the AHL all-rookie team. He has 24 goals and 48 points in 53 games, including 12 power-play goals and eight game-winning goals, for the Aeros.