The 36-year-old returned to practice for the first time in more than a month and a half, before the team departs for Chicago facing the Blackhawks tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. at the United Center. The wing has been sidelined with a lower-body injury, missing 19 games. Last year, he skated in all 82 of the team’s regular season games.
Cooke will not be in the lineup tomorrow, or Wednesday when the Wild returns home to host the Boston Bruins. However, today’s practice was a large step in what has been a lengthy road to recovery.
“It’s been a long process. A lot longer than anybody would’ve liked, especially myself,” Cooke said. “Today it felt awesome to get back with the guys.”
A veteran presence in the locker room, Cooke said that missing out on the day-in, day-out camaraderie was as hard as dealing with the injury itself.
“They’ve been on the road a lot and I’ve stayed home and skated with myself,” Cooke said. “Not being in the room and interact with the guys, I like to know what our team is feeling, what the mental mindset is and I’ve been removed from all that. It’s just as hard as not being able to go out and play.”
The forward was a full participant in today’s practice, not holding back. He said that the injured area reacted well while he was skating, but he’d wait to see how it feels tomorrow for a better evaluation after the long time off.
“I needed to push it today to see how far I could go,” Cooke said.
The Belleville, Ontario native is a key contributor on the team’s penalty kill unit and the team also has missed his physicality. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo brought up another area where the forward has left a void.
“Where we’ve missed him in particular is his board work,” Yeo said. “He’s a guy, whether it’s coming out of the defensive zone, along our boards and executing to help us get on the attack or in the offensive zone and winning one-on-one battles and helping us generate a little more offensive zone time.”
His energy was felt on the ice in practice today, talking, going hard and pushing his teammates.
“You notice him, he’s loud, same old Cookie,” Defenseman Ryan Suter joked. “It’s good to have him back around, just a good veteran presence.”
The Wild placed defenseman Keith Ballard and forward Ryan Carter on Injured Reserve today.
Ballard suffered three facial fractures and a concussion after getting hit into the board by New York Islanders forward Matt Martin on Dec. 9. He’s out indefinitely.
Carter is out with an upper-body injury. Yeo said that he suffered it against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 11. The forward practice on Friday, but was feeling discomfort and sat out Saturday’s game in Arizona.
“We were hoping that he was going to come in today,” Yeo said about Carter. “He’ll be out for the next couple games, but hopefully not much longer after that.”
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon missed today’s practice due to an illness that kept him out of Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win against the Coyotes and will not play tomorrow or travel with the team.
Mikael Granlund didn’t practice and took a maintenance day. He’s expected to be in the lineup tomorrow against the Blackhawks.
Minnesota recalled forward Brett Sutter from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. The 27-year-old has collected 14 points (5-9=14) in 26 games with Iowa this season. He ranks fourth on the team in scoring.
“We would expect him to come in and bring a physical presence,” Yeo said. “He should finish his checks, win his one-on-one battles and he can kill penalties, and he’s a guy who can do some things in the offensive zone.”
Suter Second Star
Suter was named the National Hockey League’s Second Star of the Week. The blueliner tallied five assists, while averaging 30:30 time on ice in three games after returning from the mumps.
The blueliner was quick to deflect attention for the honor saying, “They must not have watched the games…it’s more of a pain in the butt to have to talk about it.”
He credited the team’s play for his offensive numbers.
“It’s a lot of hard work by the team,” Suter said. You don’t get points in this League by yourself.”
Look at Lines
With Granlund out, here’s what the lines and D-pairs looked like today: