"He's been out for a little while but this is a guy that's been a very, very big part of our team," coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday morning in advance of Game 3 in the Wild's Western Conference semifinal series with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Ballard played in 45 regular-season games and suffered a groin injury March 17. Although he's been healthy for some time, he hadn't made it into the playoff lineup until now.
"I've been through this before," he said. "A few years ago, I missed the last 31 games of the year and came in the playoffs and felt like I adjusted well. It's partially about just playing the game as it unfolds; taking what plays are there, taking what's there. For me, it's using my skating, using my abilities, and you fall back on that."