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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Comeback hangover; Coming back with Backstrom; Why no Havlat?; Bouchard update

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: January 11, 2010 - 8:44 AM

Monday morning update: I'll be hosting a live chat today at 1 p.m. on www.startribune.com

I could not sleep last night. Between that thrilling finish and the adrenaline rush of writing a 22-inch article for a deadline in about 15 minutes, I was completely wired for hours after the game.

Many players, and coach Todd Richards had the same problem.

"It took me a lot longer to get to sleep," said Eric Belanger.

"My heart was pounding for hours," said Josh Harding.

Hours after the biggest comeback in franchise history, the Wild hit the ice for practice this morning at Xcel Energy Center. Martin Skoula and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the other locker room prepping for a 1 p.m. practice. All talk in the Wild room still centered around last night's improbable comeback from four goals down in the third period to beat the NHL-powerhouse Blackhawks.

Just some great anecdotes and one-liners today. I'll try to squeeze most in Monday's paper.

Harding, who couldn't even remember double fist-pumping after stopping John Madden in the shootout, had some great lines and a really neat analogy about the pressure he put himself under in the shootout. You'll have to read the paper for that one. By the way, could you imagine if Harding lost the shootout and got the loss after not giving up a single real goal? I joked on Twitter during the third how I bet the Wild rally to make it 5-5 so Harding gets the loss. That's happened to him three or four times in Nik Backstrom relief appearances.

Richards does plan to come back with Backstrom against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Harding will likely play one of the back-to-backs coming up vs. Vancouver or at St. Louis, Richards said. Statistically, Harding has struggled against Pittsburgh and Backstrom's been great (2-0, .967 SP, 0.96 GAA). Also, Backstrom is 13-2-4 with a 1.94 GAA and a .927 SV% in 19 career starts after getting pulled. He is 9-0-1 with a 1.57 GAA and a .944 SV% in his last 10 starts after not finishing a game.

Backstrom was completely hung out to dry last night. He didn't have a prayer. First three goals were backdoor empty-netters after bad d-zone breakdowns and turnovers. Fourth goal, Patrick Kane was tremendous, then Backstrom was bumped by Cal Clutterbuck.

Backstrom took his stick and looked like he was about to pull a Keith Ballard (had to use it, sorry), but he resisted.

"I didn't know what I was going to do," Backstrom said.

Backstrom also had a funny anecdote about what Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien, a local product, said to him during the game. And guess what? Read the paper Monday. As I joked on KSTP the other day -- I'm not a blogger, I'm a beat writer. I write articles, too.

Great lines in the locker room about the shootout selection. Kyle Brodziak said he was stunned to be chosen. He said last year in Edmonton he thinks there was a 12-round shootout and Craig MacTavish didn't even look at him.

Which leads me to Marty Havlat. Why no Havlat? Havlat said it was a coach's decision and it worked out, so no harm-no foul.

Richards said, "It was a number of things. That’s something we talk about ahead of time as a staff and talk to the player with, too."

Pressed further: "It was shootouts this year, it was his past success in shootouts (3 for 16), and then you just talk and try to make the best decision."

I've been covering this sport since 1995. I'm dumb but not this dumb. Richards chose eight players, and not the very skilled Marty Havlat -- who signed a six-year, $30 million contract last summer. He chose Brodziak over him. He chose Clutterbuck over him. There's something else behind the scenes without a doubt.

I wanted to see Boogey in the shootout. You know what? Brunette wouldn't be a bad choice. I know everybody looks at speed, but let me tell you, I was in Buffalo during an exhibition game before last season and Nolan and Brunette both scored shootout goals there. And Brunette looked very smooth in it.

I'll also have some more in the paper on the whole Petr Sykora tweeting drama from last night (see previous blog). Richards responded, and again reiterated that this is nothing personal, that he's not breaking up the Koivu line, he's not breaking up Havlat and Latendresse and he feels Nolan-Belanger-Clutterbuck works. And he values Earl's speed and energy right now over Sykora's. But he said this is obviously a bigger problem than he thought and that he'll probably talk with Sykora and that his door is always open, too.

Also, talked to Pierre-Marc Bouchard this morning, or as I call him, "the Heckler." All he does is heckle and mimic me in the press box as I type. Anyways, he said he's not there yet. He's has slight improvement, but he still can't exercise without symptoms. It's just a waiting game and he's not willing to say he's done for the season yet. And contrary to rumors, he is NOT retiring.

I probably will hold this story until Tuesday's paper due to way too much stuff already to fit into Monday's paper.

By the way, renowned copy editor and Wild fanatic Randy Johnson pointed this out to me last night: What are the odds of this? In a row, Patrick Sharp scored his 15th goal, Jonathan Toews scored his 14th, Kris Versteeg scored his 13th, Troy Brouwer scored his 12th and Marian Hossa scored his 11th. Now that's eerie.  

Lastly, as I mentioned the other day, I wrote my Sunday column on Minnesotans Danny Kristo, Jordan Schroeder, Derek Stepan, Jake Gardiner and Mike Lee winning gold Tuesday in Saskatoon at the world junior championships (replay in a few minutes on NHL Network!!!!).

Here's the column, with a much appreciated picture submitted by Deb Schroeder.

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