By Brian Stensaas
Unless something changes, I've covered my last Wild practice for awhile. After tomorrow's game, there's the big Olympic break and then Russo is back with you for the majority of the season. I do know of one road trip in March that he won't be on. But neither will I.
Today's practice was the second I've covered at St. Thomas Arena and the score is now Directions 2, Stensaas 0. BOTH times I've driven home from STA, I've taken the wrong way. I got a nice little tour of Eagan/Mendota Heights/Inver Grove Heights, though. Nice place.
New Wild defenseman Cam Barker was on a 6:30 a.m. flight to MSP today. He arrived here in time to hop a ride to the Xcel Energy Center, meet with coach Todd Richards and then join his new teammates over at STA for an hour-long on-ice workout. Barker, who will wear No. 45, will be in uniform tomorrow night. No word yet who he'll play with on the blue line, but Nick Schultz is an obvious guess.
A few players were not around today (Khudobin, Zanon, Zidlicky, Nolan and Scott for sure were not) and Richards said there is nothing to be too concerned about. Some guys were given the option. Scott is sick.
Khudobin? Here we go again with the "H" word. Richards told us that the rookie goaltender "tweaked" his hip flexor during warmups last night. Niklas Backstrom will start Sunday against Vancouver, but there is no word on the backup and with no morning skate tomorrow because of the 2 p.m. start, we won't know until warmups. Remember, Richards has been saying all week that the hope was to not use Josh Harding until after the break. If Khudobin is ailing and Harding has to go in for any reason at all tomorrow as Backstrom's backup, the Wild is one fluke play from being in some seeeeerious trouble. I guess you could say that always. But Harding just has been so unfortunate with his hip problem. You wonder how confident the team is having him back up?
Sorry for the woefully short blog post. Big, big game for the Wild tomorrow against the Canucks. I'm saving all my energy for that one. The early start means all of my work tomorrow (blogging, tweeting, game story, notebook story, game recap) will be done pretty much during and after the game. No prework time. Gameday afternoons might get a little tiresome, but it sure is nice having some work done once the puck drops. Tomorrow? Not so much.
Enjoy your Saturdays, folks. Hey - Olympic hockey begins in two hours! Switzerland v. Sweden followed by Canada v. Slovakia in women's Class A action - catch the fever!