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) Houston Roadie leads to big Aeros win; Dubielewicz recalled

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: February 2, 2010 - 2:08 PM

Whatever day it is today afternoon update: I've been a day off for about a week, so I'm not even going to guess what day today is. I do know I leave for the Olympics a week from today. 

Here's your update if you don't follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/russostrib). You should follow me on Twitter by the way because that's where you can get real-time updates from practice and skates. Speaking of Twitter, follow St. Louis Blues forward and good samaritan David Perron at @dp_57. Check what Perron tweeted earlier today: "From now til end of the month, I will donate 1$ for each follower I get to the Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund #haiti #NHL"

As for the Wild, Niklas Backstrom, who's sick as a goalie, was sent back to the Twin Cities today. Apparently the illness has hit him hard. He's lost some weight, which if you've seen Backstrom when he sheds his gear, he can't afford to do. Me, I can afford it. Backstrom, he cannot.

Derek Boogaard's out with a hammy again. Because Steve Ott ran around two weeks ago when the Wild was here and earlier this season took a lunge into the head of Petr Sykora, coach Todd Richards is considering dressing John Scott as a forward tonight instead of either James Sheppard or Robbie Earl. Perhaps Ott fights Scott tonight instead of goalie Josh Harding?

OK, gottsta work.

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Good morning from my Dallas hotel before I head over to the arena for the morning skate. Looks like Marty Turco in net.

Wade Dubielewicz, fresh off his 30-save effort in a win over Abbotsford last night, just landed in Dallas to back up Josh Harding tonight. Nik Backstrom was still sick as of yesterday. He's skated during a brief morning skate only once since his win over Columbus on Jan. 23 (I believe). And this is a guy that always feels like he needs to skate even during days off.

So what am I saying? I've got to think Backstrom will need some time on the ice before he gets in game action again.

I took a road trip down to Houston after practice yesterday with Wild media relations guru Ryan Stanzel. We're talking a good 3 1/2-4-hour drive, four hours because of a long time at the cleanest gas/convenience story you've ever seen -- Buc-Ee's. They've got just about everything there, and Stanzel cleaned the place out of turkey jerkey, moonpie's, etc., etc.

I cleaned the place out of coffee. They did re-stock luckily for the ride home, and yes, we did stop again. I walked into my hotel room about 3 a.m., so I'm a bit fatigued.

That ride's got nothing, other than the Sam Houston Statue that is so big, it honestly makes the Statue of David in Florence look like a Derek Boogaard Aeros' Bobblehead -- which by the way, I snagged last night at my first-ever Aeros' game.

Aeros beat the Abbotsford Heat, 3-1, behind goals from Eden Prairie's Chad Rau (great falling pass from ex-Gopher Danny Irmen), Nathan Smith (off a delayed penalty drawn by Colton Gillies) and Cody Almond (great lunging goal through traffic).

Chatted with a bunch of players after the game, mostly Almond and Gillies, for a notebook in tomorrow's paper (although if there's other things going on today, I may hold to run a few days from now). Aeros coach Kevin Constantine was very complimentary of both Almond and Gillies.

Almond's played very well in his return from a broken scaphoid bone. Houston's power play's improved dramatically since he's been back, he's been playing with an edge, he's fighting (although I can't imagine the Wild brass wants him fighting after a broken wrist basically). Gillies, Constantine says, has been a religiously good checker and trustworthy player (few goals against). Gillies didn't have the legs yesterday in his first game back after five games, but I actually thought he was better than he thought he played himself.

Gillies says he still keeps up with the Wild by reading the articles (I need the hits). He's living with Rau, which I've written before, and has definitely learned to appreciate the NHL life (commercial flights are something you don't see in the NHL). This is by the way I think all hockey players, unless you're the super elite, should spend some time in the minors.

It's a shame James Sheppard never got that chance. I think this will make Gillies much better in the long run.

I did want to tell you I watched a lot of Maxim Noreau last night. He's a good player and I've got to think next year he gets some sort of chance. He's mobile, poised, has an NHL shot. He might be undersized, but you look at him and don't say, "That guy's too small." I was impressed.

Also got to meet the great msconduct (Heather Galindo) and John Royal from thethirdintermission.com, so that was fun. They do a great job with that Aeros' blog. Also got to meet Andrew Ferraro from the Houston Chronicle, who does a great job covering the Aeros. These are the people you should be reading throughout the hockey season if you want great Aeros' coverage.

After the night, went over to a place called Maple Leaf Pub -- a Houston hockey bar -- to watch the rest of the Flames-Flyers game on Sportsnet, so that was a hoot. True hockey bar in Houston.

Anyways, other than accidentally calling Shane Hnidy like five times in a row (no idea how or why), just a pleasant trip down to Houston for my first-ever Aeros home game. Great arena, fun game-ops, hospitable media relations, did some radio, schmoozed with some scouts and got a story out of it.

Worth the 500-plus mile drive for sure

OK, one other thing, was emailed that I called Patrick Marleau captain in the paper the other day. Obviously it's former captain. Slip of the fingers filing at the gun. Trust me, I know his captaincy was stripped, and in fact, for my Sunday package this week, I talked to Marleau and Dany Heatley about that before the game. So you can read that then. But apology for the error.

Talk to you after the morning skate.

 

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