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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Day of reckoning

Posted by: Rachel Blount under Wild practice Updated: April 1, 2010 - 2:01 PM

Hey all, Rachel checking in after an interesting practice at the X.

For those of you upset at not getting your money's worth Wednesday, Todd Richards has your back. The Wild coach didn't think his team's performance against Chicago had much value, either, and he made his opinion clear at Thursday's practice. It wasn't as good as a refund, but at least he made the point that the fans and organization deserve better than the sorry play they got in the 4-0 rollover to the Blackhawks.

Richards said he was as angry and disappointed as he's been all year. He ran a few drills at the 11 a.m. practice, then took the pucks away and made the boys skate. Hard. For a good 10-15 minutes, until they were bending over and panting. He ended the 37-minute practice by barking, 'Everybody off!' The players trudged into a silent locker room and hustled out of there pretty quickly, like a bunch of kids that know dad is really, really mad this time.

Richards said he decided immediately after Wednesday's game that he was going to mete out punishment. He felt even more strongly about it after coming to the rink at 6 a.m. to watch the video and get angry all over again. Before the skate, he showed it to the players, too, just to be clear.

"We can't have the type of performance we had last night and show up for work the next day and go about our business like nothing happened,'' he said. "If we didn't have a game tomorrow, we'd still be on the ice right now. We still have to leave the rink today thinking about last night's game and having a better understanding of what we need to do tomorrow night. At this stage of the season, you don't want to be dealing with this, but we can't have the type of performance we had last night.''

Richards called out his players as a group for two major sins: a lack of intensity, and playing as self-serving individuals rather than as a team. He said it was particularly unacceptable to do that at home, at this point in the season and against a quality opponent. With guys like Mikko Koivu and Greg Zanon and Owen Nolan pouring their hearts out onto the ice while dealing with injuries, he said, the rest of the players have a minimal obligation to meet that same standard of effort.

The coach did say he thinks Wednesday's low-intensity game was an anomaly. He also said he's interested to see how the players respond. Bet you are, too. And so am I--I'll be filling in for Russo to cover Friday's game.

In injury news: Cam Barker skated Wednesday and felt good; he said he expects to get medical clearance to play Friday. Nolan, Marek Zidlicky and Martin Havlat sat out practice to rest various aches and pains but should be available to play against San Jose.   

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