ANAHEIM, CALIF. — With the Wild in the thick of the cutthroat Western Conference playoff race, General Manager Chuck Fletcher has said he's not actively looking to trade his potential unrestricted free agents by Monday's deadline.

Those players are Andrew Brunette, John Madden, Antti Miettinen, Jose Theodore and Chuck Kobasew.

But with Kobasew scratched for the first time this season Tuesday and having seen his role and ice time decrease over his time in Minnesota, there's sense Kobasew will be dangled by Monday.

The three-time 20-goal scorer would love a greater role, one bigger than sometimes playing the fourth line and sitting for extended stretches in games. He's averaging 11 minutes, 58 seconds a game but has logged less ice time than that in 12 of 17 games heading into Friday's at Anaheim.

"I'd like to play a little bit more," Kobasew, 28, said. "I don't make those decisions, though. I've been here a year and three quarters. It's been this way. I'm not saying I want to go elsewhere. I haven't said that once. I think that's more speculation. I'd just like to play a bigger role."

Kobasew doesn't want to make waves. But barring more injuries, it appears Kobasew's role is set. Coach Todd Richards said he trusts Brunette and Miettinen as a tandem offensively and defensively and he's extremely happy with Martin Havlat's play.

So they're "chewing up the ice time," Richards said. The coach said "play warrants ice time," and Richards wants to see more from Kobasew, who's scored nine goals and 13 points in 46 games before Friday after scoring nine goals and 14 points in 42 games last season. He believes Kobasew can use his speed to create more plays and calls him "a great pro."

Fletcher said it's up to Kobasew to play in his current role to the best of his ability. "I fully support Todd," Fletcher said. "We have one of the best records in the league since Jan. 1. The coach has to make his choices, and his responsibility is to win games. Frankly, he's done a heck of a job of that the last few months.

"To me it's about the team, not the individual. My only concern is winning games and that's what Todd is hired to do. I've never seen a team from T-ball to peewee hockey, you pick a division of any sport, where every single player's happy with his role. It's impossible. That's just the way it goes. There's only so much ice time and prime roles."

Vancouver's looking for a veteran forward, as is Atlanta. Carolina has coveted Kobasew since Calgary took him one slot ahead of the Hurricanes in the 2001 draft.

Asked if he think he'll be traded, Kobasew said, "Honestly, I have no idea. That's out of my control. I'm staying out of it. I'm here."

Center attention

Wild centers are dropping like flies. Three games since being called up, Cody Almond missed Friday's game with a "lower body" injury. He's day-to-day, Fletcher said.

Warren Peters, who played two games in December, was called up to replace him. To make room, defenseman Nate Prosser was reassigned.

The good news is while captain Mikko Koivu remains sidelined with a broken finger, Kyle Brodziak is feeling better and is expected to play Monday against Chicago.


• Guillaume Latendresse said he's improving but still has pain in his hips and groin: "It's going to be that way all year." He's got no timetable on a return.

• Defenseman Cam Barker (upper body) isn't expected to be out long, Fletcher said.

• Brent Burns' 15th goal of the season in Thursday's loss to Los Angeles tied his own team record for goals by a defenseman.