Justin Fontaine, who has missed the past nine games with a sprained MCL, practiced for the first time since being injured Oct. 30 against Chicago.
He got more than he bargained for today because he suddenly was thrust into full line rushes and all the drills. That's because Ryan Carter left practice early after being struck in the face by a puck that deflected off the crossbar. Lots of blood. Carter headed straight to the dentist for some dental work. I was told he had some chipped teeth, but perhaps it was worse.
"I don’t know if they’re chipped or completely gone," coach Mike Yeo said. "He had a few less than he had this morning."
I'm doing a big Carter feature for Wednesday's paper. Luckily I interviewed him ... when he could still talk (bad joke). Hopefully this errant puck didn't ruin the Movember captain's stache.
Back to Fontaine, who may have the best 'Mo on the team, in a moment.
Zach Parise, who has missed the past seven games with a sprained MCL, did not practice and I'm guessing won't for a bit. Yeo said he's doubtful for the rest of the homestand, which ends Saturday against Dallas.
As I wrote Saturday, Parise just didn't look himself during Saturday's morning skate. He didn't look like he could do the things he wanted to do out there. I wouldn't call this is a setback because he was back skating way ahead of the month timetable I believe he was originally given. So I don't even think Parise expected to feel 100 percent.
"He clearly wasn’t feeling 100 percent [Saturday], so we’ll just take things slowly," Yeo said. "[Tuesday] he’ll skate with Andy [Ness] again and see where he's at . We’re not panicking here by any means. I was shocked that he was on the ice with us, -- well not shocked knowing him, but we weren’t sitting around thinking that he’d be in the lineup for us Wednesday."
Marco Scandella (lower body), who has missed the past two games, also didn't practice.
Fontaine is on Long-Term Injury right now, so he's ineligible to play Wednesday (10 games and 24 days in the minimum) because he has only missed nine games. But I can't imagine he'd be able to play by Wednesday anyway after being out so long. So, likely same lineup vs. the Canucks as long as Carter is OK.
Fontaine called today a good first step. Yeo said he definitely wasn't game ready, "but we'll see how he progresses through the week."
As for getting so much work today because of Carter's abrupt absence, Yeo said, "That was good for Fonzie though. That’s the only way we’re going to get him back is to get him in there and get him reps. Skating on your own without contact in controlled situations is one thing. You start getting out there and you have to read and react and challenge yourself a little more physically than what you’re used to, that’s how you get closer to returning."
The Wild could use Fontaine back if for no other reason than the penalty kill. Before last game, the Wild's penalty kill was successful 84.2 percent of the time with him in the lineup, 67.9 percent without him.
"He’s a very smart player and he’s a versatile player and he’s a player that helps us in a lot of areas," Yeo said. "He’s responsible defensively, can contribute offensively, can fill-in in offensive roles when you need him to and can complement offensive players."
Fontaine said his knee feels stable and it's just a matter of getting used to the brace. On that knee-on-knee hit by Chicago's Andrew Desjardins, Fontaine said he hasn't thought too much about it.
"I definitely got out of the lane and he kind of lunged," Fontaine said. "I got the worst of it for sure missing this much time."
Good win over Nashville the other night. Now the Wild must build on this. I just ran into Lonnie from Wild Xtra in the St. Paul skyway system and as he reminded me, it was this week that kinda sorta started the Wild's skid last season.
He's exactly right. Starting Nov. 22, the Wild got into a win-one/lose-one pattern for 10 consecutive games before dropping 12 of 14 games (2-8-4) between Dec. 16 and Jan. 13.
Yeo said building its game starts with taking advantage of Monday and Tuesday practices.
"We just have to keep building our game," Yeo said. "Results are important and we have to make sure we keep getting them. There were lessons that we learned in some areas that I think helped us when we lost a couple games and sharpened our focus heading into our last game. We can’t now all of a sudden get soft in those areas or other areas of our game just because we won one game.
"That’s not what good teams do. You put the pedal down. We should feel pretty good and build some confidence off the way we played last game, but there's still some areas we have to be sharper at, that’s for sure."
I did ask Yeo about how tough it is for NHL teams to use their backups right now. We saw the other night Pekka Rinne started consecutive games, the second of which was against the Wild. Devan Dubnyk will start his 12th consecutive start Wednesday against Vancouver.
"I’ve seen more and more teams doing it where they're playing their [starter] back to back," Yeo said. "I don’t want to say it’s tough, but the way the league is right now, you never have a game where you're playing a team and saying, 'OK, we should definitely get this win,' … but when you look at the standings of what happens with one win, one loss, teams are making different decisions because of that and teams are taking a different strategy towards how how they work their starting goalies."
That said, he has no plan yet as to whether Darcy Kuemper will play one of the back-to-backs this weekend. They're two big games against division rivals Winnipeg and Dallas, and they're not normal back-to-backs because both are at home, so no travel, and one's an afternoon game and one's a night game, meaning extra rest. So it's NO guarantee Kuemper plays this weekend.
Lastly, Tyler Graovac is also skating with Ness, but there's a protocol here and Yeo said he's a ways off.
The much-anticipated stadium-series jersey unveiling will occur after practice roughly 11:45 a.m. tomorrow, by the way.
If you missed the latest Russo-Souhan Show, go to malepatternpodcasts.com. We are taping our next one live at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub at 3 p.m. Wednesday, so please come on down before the game.
I'll be live in studio on KFAN with Paul Allen on Tuesday at 9 a.m.