As the Wild seeks to end a three-game losing streak, any bit of good news is welcome. So even though Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Josh Harding won’t play in Tuesday’s game at New Jersey, they lifted spirits at the team’s Monday practice just by showing up.
The three injured players participated fully — and enthusiastically — in the workout at Ridder Arena. Parise has missed two games because of a concussion, and Spurgeon has missed four after injuring a shoulder against San Jose on Oct. 30. Harding practiced for the first time since he broke his right foot just before training camp began in mid-September.
Coach Mike Yeo said none of them are ready to rejoin the lineup. But they traveled with the Wild to New Jersey on Monday so they could continue skating with the team as they move forward with their recoveries.
“This was a big step,’’ Yeo said. “They looked good in practice. We’ll talk some more with them, but we plan on bringing them on the road not with the expectation they’ll play, but to give them a chance to hopefully get back sooner.’’
The media was not allowed to speak with Parise, who was hurt during a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh that began the losing streak one week ago. Spurgeon said he was able to resume skating three days after his injury, which happened when he slid awkwardly into the boards after being hit.
Until Monday, the defenseman hadn’t been practicing at full speed; during the Wild’s trip last week to Ottawa and Montreal, his only skating partner was Harding. Still, Spurgeon said he has not lost much of his conditioning.
“I’m just waiting for everything to strengthen back up, and we’ll go from there,’’ said Spurgeon, who has two goals, four assists and is tied for the team lead at plus-7. “I’m taking it day by day. Being able to get back in the practice groove and get back on the road with the guys will be fun.’’
Yeo said the imminent return of Spurgeon and Parise, who leads the team with 10 points, has two benefits. It will give an emotional lift to a sagging team that has been outscored 11-2 in three consecutive losses. The coach also speculated it will be “a motivator’’ for other players.
“Guys are always doing the math,’’ he said. “If somebody’s coming back into the lineup, that means there will be other guys that get moved around.’’
Back with the pack
Yeo said he has no timetable for Harding’s return. The goaltender — who broke the foot when he kicked a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate — found out Sunday that he would be allowed to practice Monday.
Harding had to stay off the foot as it began to heal. He has been working out alone or with other injured players for the past several weeks, rebuilding his strength, speed and reflexes. Yeo said Harding’s return is in “the very early stages,’’ though he liked what he saw from the goalie Monday.
“It was good getting back out there,’’ said Harding, who did not play after Dec. 31 last season because of recurring symptoms of multiple sclerosis. “It was great seeing all the guys again and getting that competition back, challenging yourself to stop every shot, just going out there and doing your job.
“This was another step. Whatever I can do to help this team out, that’s the next step.’’
• Yeo blamed the Wild’s losing streak on its inability to stave off frustration when things don’t go its way. If the team sticks with its game plan, he said, its offense will be able to regain its form.
“We’ve got to be a little bit stronger between the ears, a little bit tougher mentally,’’ he said. “If we don’t score in the first 20 minutes, we can’t not score in the next 40 because of that.’’
• Defenseman Jonathon Blum was paired with Keith Ballard in Monday’s practice and could play against the Devils, though Yeo said he will not decide the lineup until Tuesday.