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Haula Practices with Team, Could Return Thursday

Center has missed the past seven games with a foot injury

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- Erik Haula could return to the lineup for the Minnesota Wild when it begins a three-game road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Haula practiced with the team on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center before the team flew to the Steel City. He skated on the third line with left wing Jason Zucker and Zack Mitchell, who was recalled from Iowa of the American Hockey League earlier Wednesday.

It was the first time since Oct. 20 that Haula practiced with the team, although it culminated a stretch of days where he skated on his own before practice.

"I got pretty sick of the bike," Haula said. "When you're hurt, you kind of like an outsider, in a sense, you're in a different schedule. It's a lot of fun being back."

Video: Erik Haula Practice

Haula isn't a certainty to play against the Penguins, but his presence on the road trip means a return to the lineup by the weekend seems likely. Much of that will depend on his his sore foot responds to Wednesday's practice.

"Hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, it feels good," Haula said. "We'll see how it reacts and just keep going from there. I don't have too many thoughts in my head. For sure, I'm really close and that's a great sign that I'm going on the trip. I'm really hopeful."

Haula's return would bring a helpful boost to a lineup that has scored just one goal over its past two games, both losses. He had a goal and an assist against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 18, playing in one more game two nights later against the Maple Leafs before missing time.

"It's been a long time coming but we want to make sure he's healthy before he practices or plays," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "It'll be a game-time decision with him tomorrow. But he looked like he was skating fine."

Scandella transferred to long-term IR

Defenseman Marco Scandella was moved to long-term injured reserve, meaning he must miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days. 

Scandella, who has one assist in seven games, has missed the last three contests with a knee injury, will not be eligible to return to the lineup until Minnesota's game against the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 23.

Roster moves

Scandella's move to long-term IR frees up enough salary cap space for the Wild to carry extra players on the road trip.

Along with Mitchell, the Wild recalled defenseman Mike Reilly and forward Christoph Bertschy from Iowa. The Wild now has an extra defenseman and an extra forward.

During line rushes on Wednesday, Bertschy mixed in with Chris Stewart and Joel Eriksson Ek on the fourth line.

Reilly worked with Jared Spurgeon, a duo that could provide the Wild's struggling power play with a big-time boost on the back end.

"I'm hoping. We'll soon see," Boudreau said.

If Mitchell plays, he would be making his NHL debut. Boudreau said he spoke on Tuesday with Iowa coach Derek Lalonde, who told him Mitchell was their best player over the weekend.

That was enough for Boudreau.

"He led [Iowa] in scoring last year. He missed all of training camp and we didn't get a chance to look at him," Boudreau said. "The last two games, we really haven't been scoring so we're going to give him a chance."

Parise remains out

Forward Zach Parise remains out of the lineup and will not play at all this weekend, according to Boudreau. But the winger could return next week when the Wild begins a three-game homestand on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.

Video: Wild Practice Recap

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