CHICAGO – Wild left winger Mike Rupp had no clue when he had his left knee scoped last spring that his season debut would be delayed until at least November.
"This has been one of the most challenging things I've ever had to deal with injury-wise," said the 33-year-old Rupp, a veteran of 597 games. "There was almost like a disconnect and I couldn't get things firing, and once I did get things firing, there's been so much compensation the last couple years that the [left] leg was just kind of depleted. I've had to work hard to build up the strength again."
Rupp had arthroscopic knee surgery in 2011-12 with the Rangers. He reinjured the knee during a fight in Colorado and eventually required more surgery to repair a torn meniscus after the season.
"Even the year before with the Rangers I felt I was skating on one leg," Rupp said. "Because of the lockout, I got extended time to rest and build it up, so I felt like I was in a good place when I came here. In hindsight, I still think I had some stuff to get cleaned up. I had a lot of fragments under my kneecap that wasn't allowing a deep bending motion on that side.
"Now my knee feels outstanding and I'm kind of retraining my body. I was doing squats and I haven't done squats in a couple years."
Rupp and coach Mike Yeo met Friday to gameplan how to allow Rupp to take the next big step. With three practices this week, Yeo said Rupp will do more line reps and get in more battle drills in combination with, as Yeo joked, "the torture we'll put him through at the end of practice."
"He's moving better, but he's got another level to get to still before we put him in a game."
Rupp is optimistic he'll be playing soon.
"I always feel like I say I'm turning the corner to an extent, but the last seven days or so I really feel like it's gotten to a different level," Rupp said. "I think I need to get it to one more level, but I don't think that's far away at all."
Memorable field trip
Eighteen children from the Minnesota Special Hockey Association's Rogers Wildcats attended Saturday's Blackhawks and Wild morning skates and game as guests of the Denis Savard Foundation.
Wildcats coach Dale Veer met the Blackhawks legend and Hall of Famer at a Hockey Expo. Savard not only invited the group to Chicago, but his foundation picked up the tab for the bus, hotel and tickets for 56 kids, parents and volunteers.
"The kids describe it as a trip of a lifetime," said appreciative Tom Schuneman, whose daughter, Maggie, plays for the Wildcats. They also played the Chicago Tomahawks on Saturday.
"These kids have a bigger influence on me than I do on them," said Corey McConnach, a volunteer coach and student at the University of Minnesota. "They show what true sportsmanship is all about, and this trip is something that none of us will ever forget thanks to the Denis Savard Foundation." For more information on the Minnesota Special Hockey Association, go to www.mnspecialhockey.org.
Ultimate hockey mom
The Blackhawks just came off their mother-son trip to Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, and along for the ride was Nick Leddy's mother, Vicki.
"It was her first taste of what we do and she was just taking everything in," said Leddy, the 2009 Minnesota Mr. Hockey and 2012 Wild first-round pick. "She relaxed by the pool, laid out on the beach, went shopping, they had a brunch.
"My dad [Mike] did the father-son trip a few years ago and it's great giving back to them and showing them what they built up. It's really special."
The Wild was without injured defensemen Jonas Brodin (cheekbone) and Keith Ballard (concussion), forward Charlie Coyle (knee) and goalie Josh Harding (lower body) Saturday. Coyle and Ballard are expected to practice Sunday, while Brodin and Harding are questionable.