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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(updated) Wild 2, Blue Jackets 1; Zidlicky late winner

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: December 16, 2009 - 8:46 AM

(Updated): Wild prospects Tyler Cuma and Matt Hackett have been released by Team Canada at the world junior selection camp. Marco Scandella made it. See feature on bottom

Good evening from the X, where even with a 9-minute delay after James Sheppard upended Fedor Tyutin through the glass, the game lasted a breezy 2 hours, 10 minutes. The first period was 27 minutes. There were four whistles, five faceoffs. It was amazingly fast.

It's a good thing the game wasn't televised. TV timeouts happen after 14 minutes, 10 minutes and 6 in each period. The first whistle didn't even occur until almost 8 minutes in. The second TV timeout came at 3 minutes left, and the third TV timeout never happened. The radio stations paid. Columbus radio before my interview had to catch up by having spot after spot after spot.

By the way, I have a flight to Montreal Wednesday afternoon, so you'll only hear from me on the blog if there's news in practice. Otherwise, I'll probably blog when I land, and Russo Radio on KSTP will be at 6 p.m. CT.

The Wild controlled play in a one-sided first period. The Wild could have had three or four goals easy, but either Steve Mason made the big saves or the Wild barely missed the net. Then, the Wild's game hit a wall in a sloppy second and third period.

Guillaume Latendresse, who was awesome tonight and scored the tying goal, believes it's because the Wild's road trip legs caught up, and that does make sense. The Wild returns home from a five-game trip for one brief game, and now hits the road for two again. It's been a whirlwind tour around the continent.

As Sheppard quipped after, "I feel like we're still on the road. Just wear your suits."

The Wild had 12 shots the final 40 minutes. The last shot was a Marek Zidlicky blast for the winner with 38.8 seconds left after a huge Mikko Koivu faceoff win. Not only did he win the draw, but then he won the puck battle and banked the puck off the dasher to Zidlicky at the point.

Martin Havlat was great again. He just looks like a different player. Watch him skate, and suddenly, he just looks like a threat.

Havlat helped set up the Koivu to Latendresse goal, so at that moment, Havlat had a hand in the Wild's last six goals dating back to Calgary. I'm writing a Latendresse returns home feature for Thursday, but Havlat's a huge part of that story. Havlat and Latendresse have been playing great together, and Latendresse's quotes on Havlat are sensational on essentially why he plays so well with Havlat.

Latendresse was ridiculously good in the first period tonight. Go back to my blog at the trade, and remember what I said my buddy Fred, a Habs fan, said about Latendresse. He said "fans there are going to love him. He just needs to get out of here." Fred should be a scout.

You can read Latendresse/Havlat Thursday.

There was a little subplot going on in the third period tonight. Remember how Eric Belanger hit Jason Chimera from behind in the exhibition game here and Chimera left on a stretcher with a concussion? Belanger called Chimera at the hospital to apologize, but Chimera never returned the call and publicly made it clear he didn't accept the apology.

Late in the third period, Chimera took a huge run at Belanger and missed, then kept on spearing him in the back up the ice. A whistle occurred, and Chimera kept slashing Belanger in the back. He just skated away. Then, in the final seconds of the game, Chimera again jabbed Belanger in the ribs.

I found Belanger after the game and asked him about it, and he said,“I’m done with him. I said what I had to say. If he wants to keep going after me, then go ahead. I’m not going to play his game. I’m done.”

Other tidbits:

-- Koivu won 11 of 16 faceoffs. His teammates won 11 of 24. He had two helpers.

--Marek Zidlicky's goal with 38.8 left was his first in 15 games (Nov. 10).

--Seven of the Wild's last eight home games have been decided by one goal (5-1-1). Twelve of the Wild's last 14 have been decided by one goal (9-2-1).

--The Wild is 10-3-1 at the X and 16-3-5 at the X since Feb. 19. Minnesota's won four in a row at home.

--The Wild has played in a league-high 22 one-goal games and has won a league-high 13 (13-6-3).

--The Wild has given up the first goal in 12 of the last 14 games (9-3-2). The Wild has trailed in 11 of 16 wins.

Lastly, check out this Canadian Press feature on Wild prospect Marco Scandella and Colen Teubert, who are expected to be Canada's top D pair at world juniors.

OK, I'll either talk to you before or after my flight Wednesday, or I'll speak to you on the radio.

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