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Pominville Progressing; Kuemper To Back Up

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Forward Jason Pominville and goaltender Darcy Kuemper each participated in morning skate with their Minnesota Wild teammates prior to the Wild hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, though neither is expected to return to the lineup.

Pominville has missed the past six games with a lower-body injury. He's been skating on his own, and Tuesday marked the second time he has been out with his teammates since playing against the St. Louis Blues March 6.

"Throughout even the Buffalo game, I was pacing myself," Pominville said. I didn't want to get caught. I was just trying to be cautious. I didn't want to overdo things."

Pominville originally sustained his injury March 5 against the Buffalo Sabres. He played the next day against the Blues, but has been out since.

"You probably wouldn't really be able to notice, but after that St. Louis game we had four days off, and I was thinking that hopefully we'd have treatment, and be able to go after that, but it just wasn't the case," Pominville said. "I had some tests done, and we didn't get the results we wanted, so we had to take some time."

He said he hopes he's close to a return. Interim Head Coach John Torchetti did not rule Pominville out for the Wild's game on Thursday against the Calgary Flames, but said going through a full practice on Wednesday and responding well would be the next step.

Kuemper has been out since he relieved Devan Dubnyk against the New Jersey Devils March 17. He played 39:28 that game, allowing four goals on 17 shots. 

"Backing up tonight is the plan, so I'm excited for that," Kuemper said.

Kuemper said he had a lingering upper-body injury that was re-aggravated against the Devils, and something unrelated to a concussion he sustained earlier this season.

He met with doctors, who said he would be fine after resting for a few days.

"It was nice to get back with the guys," he said. "I skated yesterday when it was a day off. Me and [Pominville] got out for a bit. I got out yesterday, today with the guys, a good feeling, so I'm excited to be back for the stretch here."

Neither player is expected to play against the Kings, when the Wild will have a chance to get back into a playoff spot. A win in any fashion would see Minnesota pass the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card spot into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

While Pominville said there's never a good time to get injured, he said given where the Wild is at in the playoff race, and how well his line with Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter had been playing, it has made it especially difficult to watch.

"Things were going well as a team, as a line, and then you have to sit out for quite a bit of time," he said. "It's something that I'm not used to. Throughout the course of my career I've been pretty fortunate to not have to miss many games. This one I kind of had to step away for a little bit."

Torchetti was very complimentary of both Haula and Niederreiter. He said the Wild has considered moving Zach Parise to that line. Justin Fontaine, currently in that spot, and David Jones, have each shifted in for Pominville.

Fontaine took rushes in that spot during morning skate. The Wild showed the same lines and defensive pairings that it used in a 3-2 shootout victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

Torchetti compared the Wild's third line to one he coached in Chicago, with forwards Brandon Bollig and Andrew Ladd.

"Whoever you put on that line that year we won the Cup, they were a solid checking-line," Torchetti said. "They had 50-plus points, and whoever you put on it just stuck out like a sore thumb if they didn't work hard. Those two guys, that's what we have with Nino, and [Haula], and [Pominville]."

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