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With Forwards In Flux, Ballard Back On D

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

Either Zach Parise can’t tell time or has Wolverine-like healing powers — or so it seemed.

To everyone’s surprise, Parise stood in his usual spot on the top line as the Wild started line rushes in morning skate. Those of us present questioned whether we had somehow all missed two to three weeks of time or unknowingly took a quick ride with Doc Brown.

Only a day after receiving a diagnosis with a contusion on his left foot that was supposed to sideline him for an estimated two weeks at the very least, the left-winger was back on the ice prepping as if he would be in tonight’s lineup. We’ll cut to the chase: he’s not.

Head Coach Mike Yeo noted that though he skated, the comfort level to skate tonight wasn’t there. Though, the bench boss admitted he was initially floored Parise even had skates on today.

“I was stunned to be honest with you,” Yeo said. “I shouldn’t say that because that’s the way he is. But he’s not in our lineup tonight so we just have to make sure we stay focused on the guys that are in our lineup.”

Parise skated by himself before practice and he said it felt good enough to at least try practicing with the team. As he went other for pregame skate, he was hoping he could give it a shot for tonight, but as practice wore on and he tried to do some reactionary moves, it hurt too much to play.

“I know I wouldn’t be effective or comfortable out there,” Parise said.

With hope that his recovery window may be significantly shorter than initially thought, Parise said he’s just taking things day-by-day right now and hopes he’ll continue to get more comfortable on the ice with each practice.

Aside from Parise, the Wild’s lineup may be revamped with the return of several other injured players. While Parise is definitely out tonight, it’s uncertain if forwards Mikael Granlund and Torrey Mitchell will be in. Yeo said he still has yet to make those decisions, but both Granlund and Mitchell fully participated in practice and looked as if they’d be ready to go if needed.

While questions remain up front, Keith Ballard will make his return to the blue line alongside Clayton Stoner after missing nine games. Ballard, who has been skating for a few days now, said he’s been feeling good for a little while but it was just a matter of getting in some practice reps before getting back into games. He traveled with the team to Winnipeg and St. Louis last weekend and said it was nice to be back with the team and get in some drills heading into tonight.

Ballard also celebrated his birthday yesterday and despite being stuck in St. Louis a little longer than anyone wanted, he said he had a nice, quiet evening with the family. He also noted that celebrating 31 is a lot different 21. No real surprises there, but a belated Happy Birthday to the blueliner!

Along with Ballard, Josh Harding is also returning and will back up Niklas Backstrom in goal.

Tonight’s game marks the third of five-straight games in Western Conference play, with more conference opponents slated for December. With the West undoubtedly the tighter conference at the moment, what the Wild are currently going through, and what awaits it, is no small task. But according to Yeo, the team might as well just get used to it now.

“It’s going to be like this the rest of the year,” Yeo said. “We might as well just get used to it. I think what good teams do is, they don’t get caught up in the big picture, they don’t get caught up in what’s happened a week ago or what’s going to happen a week from now. It’s being in the moment.”

“These are the games you have to find ways to win,” Ballard added of the topic.

Tonight’s opponent, the Phoenix Coyotes, sits just one spot behind the Wild in the conference standings with just two points accounting for the separation — and Phoenix has played one less game than Minnesota.

While Parise is definitely out, Phoenix could be without its captain and leading scorer, Shane Doan. Therefore, both teams could be without one of their top guys.

The Wild are expecting a disciplined game from the Coyotes tonight and a tough goaltender in Mike Smith. Also, expect a hungry Coyotes squad as it’s currently on a three-game skid.

Suter Becomes A USHL Owner

Yesterday it was announced that Ryan Suter joined the ownership team of the newest USHL team, the Madison Capitols. Suter, who lives in Madison during the summer, and played with the Badgers for a season, knows the town well and is confident the team will be a good fit. Check out what else he had to say, here. Also, check out the full story and video from the entire press conference about the announcement here.

I, for one, can attest that Madison is a great hockey town. Having spent four years there, and four years covering Wisconsin hockey, the USHL team should thrive — especially with the beer garden at the Dane County Coliseum, where the team will base it’s home rink.

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