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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Light practice today; Richards calls Gonchar hit 'dirty'; Russo Radio reminder

Posted by: under Wild practice Updated: January 12, 2010 - 1:20 PM

By Brian Stensaas

My, it's amusing what a little winning streak will do for a team's attitude. Wild coach Todd Richards practically skipped down the hallway to meet reporters late this morning. The coach was smiling, had a little bit of a giddy-yap to his step and proclaimed to us 'It's a good day.'

I suppose a win over the defending Stanley Cup champs will do that, eh?

Richards didn't skate this morning, neither did most of the team. Only eight skaters (Stoner, Hnidy, Scott, Sheppard, Earl, Ebbett, Sykora and Boogaard) and the goalies were out there, and for the most part they were just having some fun. It started with Scott accidentally hitting Sheppard in a, uh, "sensitive" area with the blade of his stick. Sheppard played it up, falling to the ice and rolling around in supposed agony. Once the assistant coaches got things going, Hnidy, Scott and Stoner fired slap shots on Nik Backstrom while the other five curled in 1-on-0 against Harding from the other blue line. A game of 3-on-3 then broke out, and that was about all she wrote.

Sykora, by the way, had a great line after the 3-on-3 game ended: "I don't want to sound cocky, but I give myself the first star," he said.

Lots of joking around in the locker room. Mostly, it was just guys passing through after their runs or weights or whatever it was they were doing. A lot of players were gone even before the optional practice ended. But there was lunch provided today, so a few stuck around to chow down.

New dad and radio superstar Kevin Falness - looking like he hasn't gotten much sleep lately - conducted a great one-on-one interview with Boogaard. I have no clue how the radio master is going to edit some of Boogey's answers. Hilarious stuff, but most of it you can't say in print or on the radio.

I also got into a fun food conversation with Sykora and Boogaard. It's settled that the cilantro and rice from a certain popular burrito joint definitely sticks with you all day long. Burrrrp!

OK - enough of the funny stuff. Richards had a nice long chat with us news types. Lots of good stuff, but the most interesting was Richards' take on the elbow Cal Clutterbuck took from the Pens Sergei Gonchar last night. Richards said he hasn't had the chance yet to look at the tape of the hit. But even seeing it live he had some opinions:

"My initial thought was it's a dirty hit," Richards said. "It looked like a bit of and elbow to the chin. But the thing is, Clutter - the puck's behind him. There's no chance he's going to get the puck. It's just a dirty hit."

Gonchar received a major penalty for the hit. Nothing yet from the NHL on any suspension, but we'll monitor that.

Lastly, a programming note. Russo Radio will air at 6 p.m. TONIGHT on AM-1500. Clear your schedules, finish your dinner. Tune in.

I'm off to write for tomorrow's paper. Russo's back with you tomorrow for the game with big, bad Vancouver.

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