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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Lots of Wild gametime decisions tonight; Burns passes baseline test; "Free Petr" Twitter campaign started

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 16, 2010 - 11:58 AM

(UPDATED< EDITED)

Post-post skate update: I forgot a slight note, ha. Brent Burns passes his neuro-psyche test the other day, coach Todd Richards said. No definitive plan right now, but that's a good sign and might be final step toward medical clearance to start practicing. That's an assumption by me, not a comment from Richards.

Post skate update: All 22 guys skated this morning, including Andrew Ebbett. Ebbett says he has a stiff neck, but it's dramatically improved. "I was worried after the game [Thursday]," he said. He says he's good to go. Coach Todd Richards says the team, at forward, is banged up coming out of St. Louis and there will be a few gametime decisions tonight. He wouldn't disclose the players, but he said Cal Clutterbuck is good to go. On the blue line, the six healthy defensemen are fine, he said.

I'll update the blog at gametime if there's a change in lineup from the other night. Richards did praise James Sheppard's game, especially that he stood up to David Backes during one sequence, and "that's a step," so I think he's in for Robbie Earl again as a wing if Ebbett plays. If Ebbett doesn't play, Sheppard will play center and then Earl would likely be back in. It sounds like only way Petr Sykora plays is if there's another late scratch due to injury. All 22 guys are expected to warm up.

Good morning from Glendale, California. Yup, I went to the wrong city.

I'll update this after the skates, but I realize the blog I wrote yesterday never got up and isn't in my Drafts, so I have a bad feeling I never saved and published. Or, it's gone because my Internet is always hideous at this hotel we stay at in Arizona. So I'll toss this up and update in a few hours.

Wild had an early 9 a.m. skate this morning with 6 p.m. game. Very quiet skate. I walked around the rink and barely heard anything on lower-bowl concourse. But in the room, very loose.

Two of the Wild's worst-played games this season were to the Coyotes, a fast, skating but very defensively-structured team under very good coach, Dave Tippett.

Andrew Ebbett is questionable tonight with back and shoulder spasms, although coach Todd Richards said the team has to be careful he didn't get concussed again as well. He missed five games with a concussion last month. After Thursday's game, Ebbett said he had no symptoms, but concussion symptoms can take a few days to show once you get your heart rate up for the first time. And since the Wild didn't practice yesterday, we have to see how he's doing.

No word yet if T.J. Oshie will pay for his obvious slewfoot. It was obviously unintentional, but definitely careless and dangerous. What's been proven over and over again in the NHL's supplementally discipline process is it only matters how one person interprets anything, and that's Colie Campbell. And he often doesn't see things the same way, so I'm sure Oshie will play vs. the Rangers tonight. I wrote about this subject in my Sunday Insider, so check that out.

Agent Allan Walsh sent out a string of tweets yesterday citing Sykora stats and funny stories. He never went after the Wild like last week, saying nothing slanderous. He just let the facts speak for themselves regarding Sykora, who has been scratched five games in a row. If Ebbett can't play, James Sheppard moves to center, and if you read today's Sykora article here, you'll see Richards doesn't think Sykora can be effective on the fourth line. So, if that's the opinion, you'd think Robbie Earl would play wing tonight and Sykora would be scratched again.

A "Free Petr" campaign's started on Twitter. The trending topic is #freepetr. Look at me with the Twitter verbage! I only put it because there's some funny "Free Petr" pictures on there like this and this. That last one is hysterical.

Ran into ESPN.com's Scott Burnside in the lobby yesterday. I saw him from a distance wearing his signature backpack, and I was completely confused. I had to first remember where I was, "Phoenix." Then I had to think if I was at an All-Star Game or Stanley Cup Final or Draft. Nope.

Scott's here doing a life and times of the Phoenix Coyotes package, which should be on ESPN.com next week. So check that out.

OK, be back soon.

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