The Wild will complete the first half of its season Thursday after hosting the Sabres, and the midway mark holds extra significance because it’ll be the first time this campaign the team will have every player on its roster available.
After missing the last five games with a lower-body injury, winger Nino Niederreiter is ready to return – giving the Wild an empty injury list.
“It’s nice to see everyone getting healthy,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Niederreiter practiced with the team Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center, skating on a line with captain Mikko Koivu and winger Mikael Granlund. Wingers Jason Zucker and Tyler Ennis remained with center Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle centered wingers Zach Parise and Joel Eriksson Ek and the fourth line featured wingers Marcus Foligno, Daniel Winnik and Chris Stewart alongside center Matt Cullen.
Niederreiter injured his left ankle Dec.22 in Florida against the Panthers when he was hit by a puck and backed into the boards.
“It’s a little bit a combination of both,” he said. “I knew right away when I got hit something was up. Tried to go out there again, and I could just tell something was up.”
But after wearing a boot, resting up and getting back on the ice, he’s excited to rejoin the team.
“I feel pretty good,” Niederreiter said. “Good to go, feel pretty good, and look forward to get back.”
The 25-year-old’s return comes on the heels of Parise’s season debut Tuesday in a 5-1 win over the Panthers in which the Wild thrived in the second period, outshooting Florida 19-2.
Getting everyone back in the mix is encouraging, but it’s what the Wild accomplishes now that intrigues Boudreau.
“If it works I’ll be real excited,” he said. “We’ll see how we play. That’s what gets me excited when we’re playing well. I thought the second period was our best period of the year last night. That stuff gets me excited.”