It was a lightly attended Minnesota Wild practice on Friday with players recovering from illness or attending to injuries, but a practice nonetheless that Head Coach Mike Yeo said was a productive one.
"We touched on some things—offensive zone play, some rush stuff, some areas that we can be better—so guys put some good work in there today," Yeo said.
Yeo said he touched base with all of the Wild players who were sick on Friday, and "everybody is feeling better."
That includes defenseman Jonas Brodin, who skated during warmups in Boston on Friday but then did not play against the Bruins. Yeo said Brodin should play on Saturday against the Nashville Predators.
The Wild reassigned both Gustav Olofsson and Michael Keranen to Iowa on Friday, electing to keep forward Brett Bulmer in the mix.
"There's nothing long-term," Yeo said. "We've said the same thing with (Christoph) Bertschy, and the same thing with (Kurtis) Gabriel earlier: This is what we've got for today, and every day we'll reevaluate."
A returning face tomorrow will be Zach Parise, who will take part in the pregame skate, but will not play against the Predators.
Parise has missed the past six games with a sprained MCL, but has been skating on his own and getting closer to a return.
"He'll meet with the doctors tomorrow and then we'll have a better update of where he's at," Yeo said. "It's one thing to be cleared for a pregame skate, and go out there where there's no contact, and there's another thing to go into a practice where you've got contact drills.
"Generally when a player is cleared for practice, and cleared for contact that means he's a potential player for our lineup."
Forward Justin Fontaine, also out with a sprained MCL, had been skating on his own, but according to Yeo, is sick. The Wild has been adamant that injuries and illness are not an excuse when it comes its recent stretch of play.
"We just have to focus on the guys that are here really, and trying to get back the guys that are sick to make sure they are back as quick as possible," Nino Niederreiter said. "Today was a good skate for most of us, and we have to make sure we're focusing on tomorrow's game."
Part of that focus is getting off to a better start to games. Minnesota conceded the first goal in each game of its recent four game trip. Yeo had said the Wild simply wasn't getting to its game fast enough.
"The longer road trips wear on you, the intensity of the games, but we've been trailing in every one of those games," Yeo said. "When you're trailing, you're pressing, it seems you grind a lot more, and certainly a little bit more fatiguing, so getting back home and giving guys a chance to rest, we have to dig deep, and give everything we've got to be able to put it into that game tomorrow."
Also a go for Saturday is Jason Zucker, who took a slash on the leg at the end of the game against the Bruins, and remained down on the ice for an extended period.
Zucker did not practice Friday, but Yeo said he was just being given rest, and should be fine to play against Nashville
NOTES FOR SATURDAY'S GAME
A lot going on in and around the arena on Saturday, so some reminders of what's going to be taking place. Saturday the Wild is hosting its annual Toyota Food Drive. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items, which will be collected at Gates 1-4 from 5:30 until the start of the first period. More information can be found here.
Also before the game, fans can attend the grand opening of the Wells Fargo WinterSkate Rink. From 5pm-6:30pm fans can enjoy the artificially chilled ice rink in the heart of downtown Saint Paul near Rick Park and Landmark Plaza. During that time, fireworks will also be shot off from the park. More information can be found here.
If you're coming to the game, or downtown, take advantage of the Wild's partnership with Parking Panda and secure a spot at one of several convenient locations near the Xcel Energy Center. More information can be found here.
Lastly, start Saturday's festivities a little earlier with our pre-game happy hour, from 4:45pm - 6:30pm, on top of the box office at Xcel Energy Center.
Two full bars will be serving Anheuser-Busch beers, liquor and Chankaska wine, as well as 20oz bottles of soda and water as you gear up for tonight’s match-up against the Nashville Predators. Popcorn, chips, and candy will also be available for purchase.