Good afternoon everybody. Michael Russo here.

(update) Goalie Anton Khudobin was reassigned to AHL Houston, so Josh Harding should be ready to back up by Thursday.

From Rachel Blount, who covered today's practice:

--Josh Harding skated today. He said he's feeling good; Coach Todd Richards said he's taking "little steps" and hopes he can push it a little harder tomorrow. Neither Richards or Harding could predict when he might be ready to play.

--Andrew Brunette took another "maintenance day" and will skate tomorrow. Richards said Kim Johnsson is "progressing, but it's still a little bit slow." Probably a couple weeks away from playing. Mikko Koivu skated and looked A-OK.

--Lively practice today. After yesterday's light day, Richards wanted to get in some work, so they practiced stuff such as faceoffs and d-zone coverage. Tomorrow will be even more work.

Back with Russo live, Pierre-Marc Bouchard was walking around in sweats yesterday, but he's still unable to work out. So he is still a long ways from returning. I talked to him in the press box last week and he's still experiencing concussion symptoms.

Also, if you want to watch hockey's future this weekend, here's an idea: the Bauer NIT Friday-Sunday at New Hope Arena, which will have a lot of draft-eligible players taking part.

Shattuck St-Mary's leads a field of eight teams that include two Minnesota squads (Red and White, made up of 40 players from the just-completed Upper Midwest High School Elite League), Culver Academy of Indiana, Team Wisconsin, an all-star team from the Michigan Developmental Hockey League, the Dallas Jr. Stars (Wild draft pick Anthony's Hamburg's an alum) and an all-star team from a prep school league in Manitoba.

There are 17 Division I Minnesotans in the tournament: Joe Basaraba (Shattuck, UM-Duluth); Justin Crandall (Minnesota Red, UMD); Joe Faust (Minnesota Red, Princeton); Max Gaede (Minnesota Red, Minnesota State-Mankato); Max Gardiner (Minnesota White, U of Minnesota); Zane Gotheberg (Minnesota Red, U of North Dakota); Kirill Gotovets (Shattuck, Cornell); Caleb Herbert (Minnesota Red, UMD); Troy Hesketh (Minnesota White, U of Wisconsin); Justin Holl (Minnesota White, U of Minnesota); Christian Isackson (Minnesota Red, U. of Minnesota); Adam Krause (Minnesota Red, UMD); Jimmy Mullin (Shattuck, Miami University); Brock Nelson (Minnesota Red, U of North Dakota); Andrew Prochno (Minnesota White, St. Cloud State); Connor Reilly (Minnesota White, U of Minnesota); Blake Saylor (Culver Academy, Air Force).

Minnetonka High has a leading four players selected, and all have made college commitments (Gardiner, Hesketh, Holl and Prochno) and St. Thomas Academy has three kids chosen -- Crandall, Isackson and Zach Schroeder, the younger brother of the Gophers' Jordan Schroeder, taken by Vancouver last June in the first round. Gardiner is the younger brother of Wisconsin's Jake Gardiner, taken by Anaheim in the first round two years ago.

I'm planning to swing by Friday to check out at least the first game (Minnesota White vs. Culver). We all know about Shattuck, but I'm interested to see Culver, which boasts alums such as Gary Suter, Ryan Suter and John-Michael Liles. Oh, and my friend, Reed Schafer, the son of former Blake School star and former Notre Dame and Alaska Fairbanks coach Ric Schafer.

The co-head coach at Culver is Dan Davidge, the younger brother of former Miami University coach Bill Davidge, now the Columbus Blue Jackets' TV color analyst and father of Culver alum Rob Davidge.

First-round games being played on Friday include:

5:15 p.m. – Minnesota White vs. Culver Academy, North Rink 5:45 p.m. – Shattuck-St. Mary's vs. Dallas Jr. Stars, South Rink 7:45 p.m. – Minnesota Red vs. Team Wisconsin, North Rink 8:15 pm. – Michigan Developmental Hockey League vs. Manitoba Prep The semifinals will be at 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship game scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Last year's NIT featured seven players who were selected in the NHL Entry Draft this past June. Scouts and coaches from more than 100 NHL teams, colleges and junior programs have registered to attend the tournament. OK, I'm outta here.