ST. PAUL -- Wild forward Nino Niederreiter was on the ice again for a third day on Thursday. This time, however, he made another progression in his quest to return from a high ankle sprain when he practiced with teammates during morning skate before Minnesota's game with the New York Islanders.
Niederreiter won't play tonight, and likely won't play on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but barring a setback, the forward likely isn't going to be much longer than that.
"It's definitely a lot more fun skating with the team than by yourself," Niederreiter said. "Every day it's getting a little better and better. I'm happy to be out there again."
Even though he won't be playing on Thursday, his presence on the ice was a lift for the handful of players who took part in the optional skate, especially after the team got Mikael Granlund back from a groin injury on Tuesday, his first game since the season opener at Detroit.
"It's exciting [to see], especially participating in the drills fully and he seemed like he was doing well," said Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. "That's an injury that sounds like it's gonna be an extended period of time and to have him back, skating like he is after two weeks, is very exciting for us."
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said he's taking a cautious approach, not wanting to get burned by too much early news on the injury front. Granlund was on the ice for more than a week before he returned to the lineup, and Zach Parise participated in practice on numerous occasions before his setback and eventual microdiscectomy on Tuesday.
"I don't know [how close he is], he's feeling better, but they always say they're feeling better," Boudreau said. "We'll just rely on the trainer for that."
On Thursday, Niederreiter was asked about the night in Chicago when he, Charlie Coyle and Marcus Foligno each sustained injuries within a one period stretch of time.
Foligno sustained a facial fracture in a second-period fight. Niederreiter was rolled up on early in the third and limped back to the bench and down the tunnel. Coyle, who replaced Niederreiter on the bench, was hurt later in the very next shift, taking a Jared Spurgeon slapshot to the back of the leg, breaking a bone.
The Wild finished the game with just eight forwards available.
"I've never seen anything like that," Niederreiter said. "I was going into the dressing room and obviously was pissed and a little angry and all of a sudden [Coyle] walks in and it's the same thing. I couldn't believe it. Now everybody is feeling pretty good. I think everyone is pretty close to coming back."
With Niederreiter progressing and Coyle a few weeks behind him, the Wild is hoping the second game back for Granlund is another step in the right direction.
Perhaps a bit rusty at the beginning of the game Tuesday, Granlund looked like his old self later in the game. Now with another practice under his belt, the hope is that's he's even more comfortable moving forward.
"He missed a couple weeks, plus we forgot that in training camp he had an ankle injury and missed a couple weeks of training camp," Boudreau said. "He played one game and then was on the shelf and now he's played one more game. I think every game he's going to get better."
Here are the projected lineups:
Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Tyler Ennis - Eric Staal - Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Chris Stewart
Daniel Winnik - Matt Cullen - Zack Mitchell
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Mike Reilly - Jonas Brodin
Kyle Quincey - Matt Dumba
Anders Lee - John Tavares - Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier - Mathew Barzal - Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd - Brock Nelson - Jason Chimera
Nikolay Kulemin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Calvin De Haan - Adam Pelech
Thomas Hickey - Scott Mayfield