ST. PAUL, MINN. - If he had a concussion, Keith Ballard returned in quite a hurry.
The Minnesota Wild defenceman insists, though, he didn't suffer a concussion when hit from behind by Brandon Bollig in the fourth game of his team's NHL playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Therefore, Ballard is good to play Tuesday's do-or-die Game 6 of the series, which the Blackhawks lead 3-2.
“I feel fine. I felt fine for a couple days. I think we were being fairly cautious that night,” Ballard said after the morning skate. “By the time I got done seeing the doctors, it was in the third period.”
Ballard, who missed seven games early in the season after suffering a concussion when hit in the face by a puck, said if he was not OK he wouldn't play.
“I'd been through that before, been down that road a couple times, and the more you kind of learn about these things and the more information that's coming out, the long-term effects, they're not worth it to put yourself in that situation,” he said.
Nate Prosser will come out of the Wild lineup in favour of Ballard.
Minnesota will also have goalie Darcy Kuemper on the bench as backup to Ilya Bryzgalov.
Kuemper was last seen in action leaving late in the third period of the Wild's Game 7 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s been kind of coming about for the last couple days,” head coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s tough between (Josh Harding) and Johnny Curry and Kuemps. Obviously we make sure that Bryz gets what he needs every morning, and we don’t have a ton of quality practice time right now, so when you have three guys pretty much sharing one net, it’s kind of difficult for any of those guys to get the workload that he needs.
“But he had a real good practice yesterday, he felt really good, so this has been coming for a couple days and happy to have him back.”
Wild winger Matt Moulson also was part of the morning skate, but isn't expected to play.
Not in attendance, though, was big-minute defenceman Ryan Suter, but not just for rest, Yeo said.
“He had to, uh, go to the dentist this morning. Scheduled cleaning,” Yeo said with a laugh. “So that’s why he was not there.”
As for the Blackhawks, it looks to be the same lineup. In the morning skate, Jonathan Toews was on a line with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, which was the top trio most of the season but not used much during the playoffs.
That line was a factor in the 2-1 win in Game 5.
Here are the lines based on the morning skate:
Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad-Michal Handzus-Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell-Peter Regin-Kris Versteeg
Joakim Nordstrom-Marcus Kruger-Ben Smith
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy-Sheldon Brookbank
Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine
Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormick
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Jared Spurgeon-Marco Scandella
Clayton Stoner-Keith Ballard
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