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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Latendresse NHL Third Star of Week, gametime decision; Sykora from outhouse to penthouse?

Posted by: Updated: January 18, 2010 - 1:58 PM

By Michael Russo

I've been accidentally recording for an 1 hour, 49 minutes.

And guess where it started? Mikko Koivu walked into the locker room and jokingly (I think) gave me a little glove to the ribs, which I then responded, "Try that in the game tonight."

I almost said, "That's your hardest check in five days," but I decided my comrade when it comes to fine java might not find the humor in my little joke. Speaking of java, I've had waaaaayyyy too much today.

I kid, I kid the grumpy 'ole captain. I do think we'll find a very motivated Mikko Koivu tonight. As we all know, Koivu prides himself on defense. The guy should be an annual Selke contender as far as I'm concerned. Minus-4 probably didn't sit well with the Finninator.

Which reminds me of a funny story. Funny now, not funny then. At my old newspaper, the Sun-Sentinel, in our midseason and end-of-the-year packages, I used to have to give letter grades to every player. One year --the early years of the franchise when the team practiced at Gold Coast Ice Arena in Pompano Beach, I gave a defenseman a "D."

I perhaps wrote he was soft, too, but I can't remember.

As luck would have it, I get to Gold Coast the day it ran and the defenseman and myself found ourselves walking toward each other in this very small hallway. As I tried to squeeze by him, the defenseman literally body-checked me into the wall. I said to him: "If you hit like that, I would have given you a 'C.'"

The P.R. guy had to intervene on that one.

I wish I could play you the rest of this accidentally recorded digitalized sound. There's some funny, funny things on this thing from my shoot-the-breeze morning with some of the players, specifically two groups of two.

Don't worry, I immediately erased it. Or, did I?

Maybe I can retire early.

Guillaume Latendresse was excited about being named NHL Third Star of the Week. He said he's come a long way in less than two months. Has he ever. This guy in 24 games is tied for the team lead in goals with Koivu and Andrew Brunette. Koivu and Brunette scored their 13 in 49 games -- 25 more than Latendresse.

First Star of the Week was the best player in the NHL, Alex Ovechkin. Second Star of the Weeek was one of the best dudes in the NHL, Chris Mason, who had a shutout vs. this very same Wild last week.

Latendresse is feeling better and skated this morning, but coach Todd Richards called him a gametime decisions. The one thing Richards has learned this season about illnesses -- the way you feel in the morning is not necessarily the way you feel in the evening.

Stars coach Marc Crawford was real good this morning talking about Latendresse, and actually more so, Benoit Pouliot, who's had a good start to his Canadiens career and got into a fight (yah) with Wade Redden yesterday.

Petr Sykora has gone from healthy scratch to the first line, although in reality, the Latendresse-Kyle Brodziak-Martin Havlat line has been the first line lately. But Sykora appears in, although Richards never committed to that. But Sykora skated with Koivu and Brunette. Antti Miettinen was moved to the right wing with Owen Nolan and Eric Belanger, whose stomach was doing sommersaults this morning (so we'll see how his health is tonight). Cal Clutterbuck was moved to the fourth line with Andrew Ebbett and Derek Boogaard.

See, I told you in the paper today not to take those lines from practice to the bank. Nik Backstrom vs. Alex Auld tonight. Stars, already without Mike Ribeiro, will be without captain Brenden Morrow tonight. Jere Lehtinen is doubtful tonight and Crawford said if you see him playing, it means he had an amazing afternoon of treatment. Nicklas Grossman will be back on the blue line for the Stars.

That's it for moi. Talk to you tonight after the game, or on Twitter before (russostrib). I'm at 3,928 tweets. Think I can get to 4,000 tonight?

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