Matt Cooke on the ice is a sight for sore eyes in the state of hockey. Cooke, one of the Minnesota Wild's top penalty killers and a key forward providing grit and toughness, returned to practice with his teammates for the first time in a long time on Monday.
Cooke hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 28. The Pioneer Press reported on Dec. 5 that Cooke was about two weeks away from returning from the injury, which was originally diagnosed as "minor."
"We're a couple weeks away," head coach Mike Yeo said at the time. "Until I start to see him on the ice every day, then we're not at the point where we're considering playing him."
Cooke's return would be a lift for Minnesota after illnesses and injuries have contributed to their current 10th-place position in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Despite a healthy record of 16-11-1, the Wild's 33 points are three points shy of the eighth playoff position.
Suter named Second Star
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter was named the NHL's Second Star of the week on Monday. According to Wild.com, Suter led all NHL defensemen with five assists last week and he averaged more than 30 minutes of ice time in three games. He also was fresh off a case of the mumps.
Ballard, Carter placed on IR
Keith Ballard's concussion and multiple facial fractures have forced the Wild to place him on injured reserve. Ballard was injured on a nasty hit from Islanders forward Matt Martin in a game at Xcel Energy Center Dec. 9, according to the Pioneer Press. Carter has an upper-body injury.
Forward Brett Sutter was recalled from the Iowa Wild.
Minnesota's schedule this week begins at Chicago on Tuesday, followed by home games Wednesday and Saturday against the Bruins and Predators.