I can't believe the Wild's catching the Vancouver Canucks without Pavol Demitra. 

You can hear more great jokes like this tonight from 6-7 p.m. on KSTP (am1500.com) when the award-winning (in my own mind) "Russo Radio" comes to you live from inside Matt Thomas' luxurious studio.

Good afternoon everyone from the Twin Cities, where I just returned from practice. Amazing what a couple wins and a few days off will do for a team. The batteries are recharged and for the first time since really training camp, smiles and laughs and downright fun ensued during another loose, yet hard-working Wild practice.

The Canucks come to town Thursday, and they're demolished with injuries. Yet, other than one minor -- OK, major -- hiccup to Anaheim -- the Canucks have won three of four as Andrew Raycroft has provided solid goaltending, Ryan Kesler's provided his usual strong, and gritty, play all over the ice and Mikael Samuelsson's been scoring.

Kesler leads all U.S.-born players in NHL scoring (16 in 16), and it's funny. The Canucks media's putting pressure on GM Mike Gillis to sign the guy to an extension already. Remember just a few years ago how "overpaid" Kesler was after the Canucks matched an offer sheet given to him by Philadelphia.

Kesler's game has developed bigtime in recent years, and he's now the Canucks' "unofficial" captain it would seem. And of course, he is still a pain if the #%&%. As was the norm when he used to play against the Wild during the Gaborik era, Kesler went after Gaborik last night and almost started a riot. Kesler got mauled by about 10 Rangers, and somehow the Rangers wound up with a power play out of it.

Speaking of the above-mentioned Samuelsson, I mentioned on Twitter late last night, but I continue to be surprised by his play. I covered Samuelsson in Florida, and he was nowhere near this type of player (although he didn't get a lot of ice time down there after being traded to Florida with the No. 3 pick for the No. 1 overall pick that turned out to be Marc-Andre Fleury).

I really believed playing for the Red Wings the last bunch of years was solely the reason why Samuelsson racked up points, but he's clearly turned himself into a player.

Roberto Luongo's still out for the Canucks with a broken rib. Demitra's out til January with a second shoulder surgery. Daniel Sedin's out with a broken foot. Henrik Sedin may be out with an ankle injury. He had a negative x-ray yesterday but was to get another today. Thunder Bay's Ryan Johnson, one of my all-time favorite players that I've covered, is skating again after being taken off the ice recently on a stretcher. There are three other Vancouver injuries, and reportedly, Shane O'Brien has a disciplinary hearing with the discipline czar for his undisciplined attempted stabbing of the always-undisciplined Sean Avery last night.

So, not too many regulars in for Vancouver. Enforcer/real estate guru Darcy Hordichuk is in though. I think I once wrote a column about a conversation Hordy and I was having in the press box one night when he was a scratch for Nashville. It was a pretty cool story, so google it if you want.

Andrew Brunette returned to Minnesota's practice today as he received maintenance on what I'll call a "left-body" injury. As I mentioned during training camp, the entire left side of Brunette's body is achy as he continues to compensate for his right reconstructive knee surgery. He said the break for him personally couldn't come at a better time.

Kim Johnsson, who has missed the last five games with a shoulder injury, skated today, but he's still a ways away, said coach Todd Richards.

Lots of special teams work in today's practice. Derek Boogaard played the PK, as did Benoit Pouliot!!! But I don't see that happening tomorrow. Richards mixed up his d-pairs today, but we'll know more tomorrow what he plans to go with.

What else, what else? I'll be writing a story on Boogaard for Thursday's paper. He hasn't scored since the 2005-06 season -- my first year as the Wild beat writer. How long ago was that?

I was so new to Minnesota, I called Wild PR guy Aaron Sickman one December day to ask if by chance practice would be cancelled because it was snowing out.

"Mike," Sickman said, "Just get to practice."

Yes. Boogaard hasn't scored in a long, long time.

It'll be an interesting couple of weeks for the Wild. I think we'll learn a lot about this team now. In my opinion, there's a lot of winnable games on the horizon. Do the Wild take advantage? We will see.

If they do, the Wild players may all look like Rollie Fingers by the end of the season. I'll explain what I mean in my game notebook Friday.

The Olympics are in 100 days, and team Strib will be there in force -- Olympics writer Rachel Blount, columnist Jim Souhan and your truly. Check out the IIHF web site for all sorts of hockey info, but to get you started, here's the link for when the rosters will be announce.

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Harding practices, Khudobin sent down; Other injury updates; Bauer NIT this weekend

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Minnesota Mo-Bro's take the ice again tonight; Banned "Mr. X" makes triumphant return