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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Vancouver Canucks 5, Wild 2; Belanger injured

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 6, 2009 - 7:33 AM

First things first, the Wild lost center Eric Belanger tonight with what the team's calling an upper-body injury as of now. No disclosure of what it could be, and no indication of the severity.

Right now, the Wild has one healthy extra on the roster -- Benoit Pouliot, who's been scratched the past three games. Pouliot's been playing wing all season with the Wild, but he has played center in the past both with Minnesota and Houston. So we'll hopefully find out Friday what's wrong with Belanger, and if he's to miss games, whether the Wild will go with Pouliot or call up a center like Nathan Smith.

The Wild, after four days of fun and smiles and laughs after winning two consecutive games, reverted back to being the West's worst team.

Predictably, the Wild came out flat, but it lasted 20 minutes. James Sheppard coughed up the puck immediately for a goal to noted goal scorer Darcy Hordichuk, and then the Wild couldn't come close to scoring on two ensuing first-period power plays -- and three power plays actually in the period.

Still, despite taking only three shots in the first, the Wild was only down 1-0. But Willie Mitchell goaded Derek Boogaard into a penalty, and then Boogaard must have said the wrong thing as he argued because when he didn't leave the ice at the buzzer, referee Kevin Pollock hit him with an extra two for yapping.

Mason Raymond scored on the power play. Kyle Brodziak cut it to 2-1, and the Wild finally started playing. It put together some awesome shifts and Sheppard drew a power play, but the perpetual Minnesota Wild momentum-murdering power play emerged again by coughing up a league-leading fourth shorthanded goal.

Brodziak scored again to amazingly become the first Wild player to score more than one goal in a game this season, but Niklas Backstrom, who was not sharp, gave up a bad-angled shot to Matt Pettinger, and it was 4-2.

The Wild again was aggravating to watch tonight. The Wild's scored more than three goals in a game once this season, and not since Oct. 6, and the Wild continues to either have shots blocked or look for the perfect play.

There were chances tonight that Martin Havlat didn't even consider shooting from prime scoring areas. He's got one goal in 13 games. He's got 29 shots in 13 games. He was a minus-3 tonight with three shots -- but two of those came real late. He might have some legitimate gripes this season about ice time and linemates, but he's got to play better. The team needs him desperately to become Marty Havlat.

The Wild needs others to step up, too. It's not just Havlat. There are some players on this team who never show one iota of accountability.

One of these days, I'll throw a few examples up. I'm getting very close with one specific player whom I'm 100 percent positive has been treated extremely fair by the media. 

Couple good lines from the Vancouver room after Hordichuk's goal. It was his first goal in 50 games, and it came on his first shot in 14 games this season. Apparently, he practices that high slapper all the time in practice.

Andrew Raycroft: "That's a shot that he takes everyday in practice and at 10 in the morning, you dont really want that high-glove. So I give him grief everyday, but I don't know if I'll be able to do that tomorrow after he scored. It's going to be even higher and harder now that he has a little confidence. Listen to him back there. It's like he's Wayne Gretzky."

I covered Hordichuk. I can imagine.

Speaking of another dude I covered, how about Ryan Johnson's game tonight? Guy is taken off on a stretcher nine days ago, and he has an assist, wins 7 of 9 draws and blocks five shots.

Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Kesler got into it during warmups. According to Clutterbuck after the game, Kesler was skating the puck onto the Wild's side of the red line and kept icing the puck in the Wild's zone during warmups. Clutterbuck slashed his stick and stole the puck, he said, and then they got into a barking match that was caught on TV.

Brodziak had his fourth career two-goal game and he now has three in two games. He's tied for second on the Wild now with four goals.

Brent Burns had an assist and has six points in the last eight games.

The Wild has lost seven of eight to Vancouver.

Niklas Backstrom was pulled for the sixth time in 93 home starts. He gave up four goals on 17 shots in 40 minutes.

Forgot to mention: Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Kesler had a slight altercation during warmups. After the game, Clutterbuck claimed Kesler kept skating the puck on the Wild's side of the red line or icing the puck on their side, so Clutterbuck slashed Kesler's stick and stole a puck. Then, they got into a shouting match,

OK, I'm outta here. Long day Friday between my Sunday package, covering what should be just a jolly fun practice and maybe heading over to that Bauer NIT tourney at New Hope Arena. If you want info on that, see a few blogs ago, but a couple Minnesota high school all-star teams will be playing against teams like Shattuck-St. Mary's, Culver, etc. etc.

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