Greetings. Youngblood here.
The Wild held another upbeat practice Tuesday, one that didn't include injured players Chuck Kobasew, Marek Zidlicky or Guillaume Latendresse. The good news is that Antti Miettinen looked good in his second practice since missing five games with a concussion. The bad news is that the other players are likely not going to be able to play for a while.
Miettinen was scheduled to have a test done Tuesday to see if he's ready to return to action. Wild coach Todd Richards said he would be shocked if Miettinen didn't pass it. The question then is, where to play him? Talking to Richards, it sounds like he's unwilling to take Cal Clutterbuck off the top line the way he has played recently.
Another injury update: Latendresse and Kobasew did some individual skating Tuesday. Latendresse reportedly looked pretty good. Zidlicky is supposed to do some skating Wednesday.
Still, it appears there will be a callup or two from Houston, which is playing way out in British Columbia tonight. That would mean whatever player(s) the Wild calls up would have to travel with the Aeros from BC to Chicago -- where they make a connection back to Houston -- then catch a flight from Chicago to Atlanta. That's putting in the miles.
Here are some more tidbits from today's talk with Richards:
--Richards talked at some length about the benefits of having four days off between games. And not necessarily just because it gives some beat-up or tired players some time to heal and rest. Richards is talking about the ability to savor a three-game winning streak. "Sometimes in the NHL, you play so much that when you get a streak going you don't really have a chance to enjoy it," Richards said.
--It's pretty clear that Richards is happy with the way his team is playing. He also talked about how nice it is to be playing in games that matter. Yes, it's early in the season. But the Wild got off to such a slow start last year that the team really didn't get that feeling. Richards on the matter: "Last year I remember reading a quote by Eric Nystrom, when he was in Calgary. I think we played 'em after the Olympic break. And he was talking about playing in big games. I don't know how many big games, important games, we've played in the last year.. Games are all important, don't take it in the wrong way. ... I'm talking about playing in important games, standings-wise. We were close a few times last year. In the end, that's where you want to be. We're only 13 games in, we can't get ahead of ourselves. But right now we've positioned ourselves much better than last year. Now, I want to be playing some big games in February and March."
That's about it. I'll get back to you after tomorrow's practice.