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Wild's Nino Niederreiter hopes to be back on ice for Tuesday game vs. Jets

Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter (22) carries the puck out of the Wild zone during the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center. Photo by Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — After missing the past six games with a high ankle sprain, Wild winger Nino Niederreiter hinted he could be back on the ice for Tuesday's game against the rival Winnipeg Jets.

"It could be," Niederreiter said with a smile.

Coach Bruce Boudreau refused to tip his hand after practice on Monday, Oct. 30, calling the status of the 25-year-old from Switzerland "a game-time decision."

"He's trending in the right direction," Boudreau said. "You never know what happens. In a game, he's going to have (to do) different movements because we're playing guys that really don't like us. ... Hopefully, if he's ready to play tomorrow, we've waited long enough."

Niederreiter has skated with the team the past five days without limitations, though he still feels some ankle pain. Injured on a hit from Chicago Blackhawks center Tanner Kero nearly three weeks, his return has come a little sooner than expected.

"The doctor told me it's going to take awhile until I won't feel anything," Niederreiter said. "It's definitely a lot better, and every day it gets more comfortable. It's a step in the right direction."

"It wouldn't surprise me if he tapes that thing until February," Boudreau added. "Any time I've seen that injury, that's what happens."

That said, Niederreiter is more than willing to deal with the pain as long as he can be back in the lineup. He feels he can help the suddenly hot Wild (4-3-2) continue to turn things around after a rough start to the season.

"That's the toughest part about being hurt," Niederreiter said. "Not being able to go out there and play with the guys. You want to win as a team. ... I want to help as much as I can."

The Wild haven't been able to match his production in his absence. This is a guy who had 25 goals and 32 assists last season before signing a five-year, $26.25 million contract in the offseason. He's important.

"I guess I'd rather go down now than later," Niederreiter said. "We weren't playing as many games when I was gone. I got lucky with the schedule. At the end of the day I never want to be hurt. I always want to play and be out there."

And while he has looked good in practice over much of the last week, Niederreiter is well aware that playing in a game in a different story.

"I mean, in practice, obviously I still think about it," he said. "As soon as I play a game I won't have time to think about it. You just have to play the game. I think that's definitely going to be a big test for me."

Caged animal

Marcus Foligno will wear a full cage on his helmet against the Jets, but it won't be long until he can go back to wearing a visor.

Foligno said he should be able to switch back sometime later this week. He has been relegated to wearing a full cage after sustaining a broken cheekbone in a fight with Blackhawks winger John Hayden.

On the mend

Charlie Coyle was walking around without a boot after Monday's practice. That came a few days after he wore two shoes for the first time since suffering a broken leg in the Oct. 12 game against the Blackhawks.

While it could still be awhile before Coyle is back in action, the fact that he seemed to be walking around without much limitation is a good sign.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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