Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild lineup uncertain heading into Thursday

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: February 20, 2013 - 6:02 PM

The Wild practiced at Rexall Place this afternoon as it begins a two-game Alberta trip Thursday in the first of six of eight away from the X.

All players skated except for Josh Harding, including captain Mikko Koivu, who was the latest hit by the Wild plague trickling through the team. Coach Mike Yeo said he'll see how everybody is feeling at the morning skate before determining the lineup.

Still, by watching practice, unless it was a guise, Johan Larsson and Pierre-Marc Bouchard rotated in and out of the third line with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck. Bouchard, now a proud papa, missed the Detroit game with the bug, and since he is good for a point a game usually against the Oilers, I'd think he is back in and Larsson sits.

Top line practiced together today. Matt Cullen continued to center Jason Zucker and Devin Setoguchi, and Mikael Granlund centered Mike Rupp and Torrey Mitchell.

So it looks like Zenon Konopka will sit again.

Niklas Backstrom looked good today, but it wouldn't shock me at all if Darcy Kuemper did start. Yeo wasn't tipping his hand. Backstrom is 22-3-1 all-time vs. the Oilers with 1.81 goals against average. He is 3-1 in his past four in Edmonton with a 2.17 goals against average and .930 save percentage after being pulled in four consecutive games.

Ryan Suter is on the trip. His wife gave birth to the couple's second child yesterday -- their first girl.

The article in Thursday's paper is all about the Tom Gilbert-Nick Schultz trade. The Original Oiler-Original Wild play their first games against their old teams Thursday almost a calendar year after the trade.

That's it for now. Lindy Ruff, the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, was fired by Buffalo today. In 1997, I was in the Marlins press box covering a game in July when I got the call that Ruff, then a Panthers' assistant coach to Doug MacLean, got hired by the Sabres. I wrote that story then. Sixteen years later and 170 coaching changes later, Ruff was fired.

Dany Heatley made his NHL debut in 2001 in Buffalo. He said there were stories then that Ruff's head was on the chopping block. He was a survivor though, keeping his job in Buffalo with GM Darcy Regier at the helm, despite four playoff appearances in the past 10 years.

Great, great guy. Funny guy. Good coach. I'll write about Ruff most likely in my Sunday column.

Interim coach in Buffalo now? Brian Rolston's brother, Ron, who has coached a number of Wild players like Zach Parise and Zucker, before in stuff like under-18s.

Talk to you Thursday.

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