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) Kobasew has significant knee injury; Boogaard back; Sykora likely out next 2 games; Harding a maybe

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: December 28, 2009 - 5:06 PM

Chuck Kobasew has a sprained MCL as previously reported, but the ACL damage I mentioned on the previous blog is in fact a sprained ACL. Most sprained MCL's take four to six weeks before the player is back, but GM Chuck Fletcher clarified this morning that Kobasew will be "reevaluated" after four to six weeks to determine whether rehab is the answer or surgery. So, in other words, the return doesn't appear as if it will be in four to six weeks, just the evaluation.

And, Fletcher said, that possible surgery could be a reconstruction, which means Kobasew would be lost for the season if that were the case. The Wild won't know if it's a fully torn ACL until swelling subsides. Right now, again, they're calling it a pair of sprains, which by definition is at least a partial tear. Anyways, the reconstruction is a worst case scenario, and Fletcher didn't want to go down that road yet. He just called it a "very significant injury."

As I mentioned on the previous blog, Kobasew didn't get a ton of points, but the Wild will miss his speed and energy. Richards said Kobasew helped create the team's identity when he arrived via trade from Boston.

(update): Highly recommend NHL GameCenter. Not only was I able to watch the game on there the other night because I was out of town, you can also watch replays of games. I was able to go on there just now and look at the replay of the Kobasew injury so I can describe in my article tomorrow, and it was definitely a collision with Keith Tkachuk, not Zidlicky as I wrote on the previous blog. STL broadcasters said Zidlicky, which is why I thought that's where the collision was. You can also watch the replay of the Andy McDonald goal, and if you pause, absolutely no doubt. The play should have been blown dead for offsides. But it was a bang-bang play that needed me to pause on video to tell. So I'm not ripping into the linesmen, who are right more often than not. But this was offside.

Derek Boogaard will take Kobasew's place in the lineup tonight. Petr Sykora is ready to return from a concussion, but he has to first pass his neuro-baseline test. In training camp, players take baseline tests in case of concussions. Then, if they have a concussion, they have to take that baseline test again and have the results compared to the training camp test before that player is cleared to return.

Fletcher said the baseline test is scheduled for Wednesday in Minnesota. However, Sykora and coach Todd Richards talked on the ice, and Richards and Sykora would love to get that test pushed up to tomorrow here in Southern California so he could potentially play vs. Anaheim tomorrow night. However, Richards called this "highly unlikely."

No changes with Pierre-Marc Bouchard, but Fletcher said Brent Burns is working out a lot right now. So that's a good sign. Wild has been great without Burns (12-4-1), but its power play is 10 for 67 (14.9 percent). And Burns is a huge part of that power play. Without him, the Wild's been forced to use defensive defensemen like Shane Hnidy and Greg Zanon on the PP point. 

Richards also said he wants to play Josh Harding tomorrow in Anaheim, but he said that's "not a for sure" yet. In other words, he'll make a decision after tonight's game and it could be based on how sharp Niklas Backstrom is and whether or not Backstrom receives a heavy workload. In other words, if Backstrom faces 15 shots and pitches a shutout, potentially the Wild comes back with Backstrom.

Remember, this is not your typical back-to-back. Wild will bus down to the O.C. and should be in its hotel by 11:15 p.m.

So, we probably won't know for sure until after tomorrow's morning skate.

Martin Havlat, who normally struggles bigtime in Los Angeles, said he changed a few things up to try to end that hex. He wouldn't specifically discuss what he changed, but I know he had dinner at a different restaurant than he normally does with his So. Cal-based agent, Allan Walsh, and Walsh's wife, Stephanie, is not allowed within shouting distance of the Staples Center. Havlat doesn't play well when she's in the building (minus-3 first three shifts in October), so she's been banned. Funny quotes on this in tomorrow's paper.

Also, I tried to get Kim Johnsson to pull a Mikael Samuelsson and tell Sweden to you know what for snubbing him in the Olympics, but it turns out Johnsson did the snubbing. Johnsson told Team Sweden this past summer not to pick him for "personal" reasons, so Johnsson will spend the Olympic break resting up for the stretch run. But Johnsson made it clear how much he respects and appreciates all that the Swedish national team has done for him. More on this in tomorrow's paper.

Finland and the Czech Republic pick their teams Wednesday. Backstrom, Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen are expected to make Finland's roster and Havlat and Marek Zidlicky are expected to play for the Czechs.

Also, if you follow me on Twitter (russostrib), you may have noticed that I pointed out during the St. Louis game how the Wild's defensemen reverted back to making long 100-foot stretch passes throughout the second period and in reality, most of the game. This is the way the old system was played, not the new system, and Richards worked hard the first month of this season getting rid of this "habit." I asked Richards about this today, and he was indeed unhappy with the amount of stretch passes. He pinned the blame on forwards not coming back to help out the defensemen, who were left on an island by themselves, said Richards. So look for the Wild to get out of this habit again of trying to make tape-to-tape 100-foot passes.

He wants the team coming up the ice in waves, with speed.

OK, that's it for now. More tonight. Because of the 9:30 p.m. start, the game story won't be in most editions tomorrow, so be sure to check out the blog late tonight and startribune.com/wild for the final game story.

Talk to you later.

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