After a day off Wednesday, the Wild returned to practice at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday and put in a busy and businesslike one-hour session. Coach Mike Yeo noted that it's important for the team to maintain energy and focus throughout a three-day break between games. Colorado will be prepared for Saturday's game at Xcel, he said, and if the Wild allows itself to exhale, it could lose the momentum it has gathered through a four-game winning streak.
The team fine-tuned its systems Thursday and worked at a swift pace throughout. Yeo was looking for intensity, speed and unwavering concentration from a group tied for 10th place in the Western Conference.
"Quite often, without you even realizing it, the urgency level can drop,'' he said. "Habits can drop. The next thing you know, you're scrambling to get back to the level you were at. For us, we want to make sure we're not only staying at that level, but pushing to get to an even higher level.''
Matt Cooke (lower-body injury) and Justin Fontaine (groin) did not practice Thursday. Yeo said Cooke has been placed on injured reserve and that he will have further news Friday. Russo has reported that Cooke has a sports hernia that will require surgery and sideline him for the rest of the season.
Fontaine, Yeo said, has skated on his own the past two days and is feeling better. He plans to practice Friday.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper is expected to be recalled sometime in the next few days after playing three games in Iowa on a rehab assignment. Kuemper shut out Adirondack 4-0 on Wednesday night, stopping 28 shots. He has a goals-against average of 2.64 and save percentage of .918 in the three games.
Yeo said he doesn't have a plan for how to move forward with three goalies and will take things on a day-to-day basis with Devan Dubnyk, Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom.
"I'm really pleased to hear he had a great game (Wednesday),'' Yeo said of Kuemper. "That was the goal here. I actually liked his game in Detroit, when he came in in relief (a 5-4 shootout loss in which Kuemper played 37 minutes, 35 seconds and stopped all 14 shots he faced in regulation and overtime).
"But he has played very little hockey lately. So we just wanted to give him a chance to get a good base underneath him again, play some games, get confident in himself, play in a situation where the pressure and all the focus is not on you. I think we've seen his game progress in the three games he's been (in Iowa), and so we won't rush anything. When the time comes, when he comes up here, we'll make sure he's getting what he needs.''