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.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
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Wild left wing Matt Cooke will likely not play again in this first-round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.
The veteran left wing, who signed a three-year contract with the Wild last July, has been offered an in-person hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety after a knee-on-knee hit tonight that injured Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie.
That allows the NHL to issue a suspension that exceeds five games if it so wishes. Cooke can decline the invitation and have a phone hearing.
Barrie, the dynamic free-wheeler who led Colorado blue-liners with 13 goals in the regular season, is expected to miss four to six weeks with an injury to his left medial collateral ligament, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said.
Cooke was assessed a two-minute minor for kneeing 2:02 into the second period of tonight's 1-0 overtime win over the Avs. Barrie, in pain, got up and said, "I'm done," according to TSN analyst Ray Ferraro, who was broadcasting between the benches.
The Wild killed off Cooke's penalty -- the first of three second-period minors -- before Mikael Granlund broke a scoreless tie in OT with his first career playoff goal.
“A knee on Tyson Barrie, without a doubt, that’s the play of the game,’’ Roy said after the game. “We lost our best offensive defenseman, and I think it could have been a five-minute major. Plus, I think that would have broken (the Wild’s) momentum.
“I’m sure the league will make the right call. We’re very confident they will make the right call.’’
Cooke was unavailable for comment. Cooke, who has suspended six times for a total of 25 games, has not been suspended since March 2011. He is not considered a repeat offender by NHL standards, but it's very clear with some of the kneeings this season and in this postseason, the Matt Cooke factor is in full effect.
Cooke has worked hard behind the scenes to "clean up his act" through video work and other means. Here's a feature I wrote on Cooke back in September. He has shown all season a tendency to err on the side of caution anytime there's a chance for a potential close call. He was having a terrific series to this point, and tonight he led the Wild with six of its 33 hits.
The incident in question is below. (Barrie is a great guy, by the way. He used to be a member of the Coral Springs Coyotes at Incredible Ice when he was a kid. I covered his dad, Len Barrie, on the Florida Panthers, and after the season, I used to watch playoff hockey with Barrie, then-Panthers play-by-play guy Jeff Rimer and an 11-year-old kid named, ... Tyson Barrie. I interviewed Barrie for awhile Saturday and was actually planning on writing a story on him for Wednesday's paper. That story likely won't see the light of day now.
UPDATED FROM PRACTICE:
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Matt Moulson-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Nino Niederreiter
Stephane Veilleux-Erik Haula-Cody McCormick
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella-Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner-Nate Prosser
Extra forwards: Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, Jake Dowell
Extra defensemen: Jon Blum, Keith Ballard.
Injuries: Kuemper (upper body), Ballard (groin) and G Josh Harding (MS) are day-to-day. LW Mike Rupp is suspended for Games 1-3. G Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) and LW Jason Zucker (quad) are out.
The Wild practices at 10:30 a.m. today, so I'll be back later with a fresher, newer blog. But, here's some morning/afternoon reading AND listening for you.
Today's Star Tribune coverage (click the links):
Wild finishes strong after desert summit conducted by leaders Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
A year later (thanks to Dustin Brown), Jason Pominville gives Wild an added playoff weapon
Very funny notebook lead thanks to good sport/good guy Mark Parrish. Six years later, Parrish is on Wild payroll no more + more Mikael Granlund/Erik Haula talk and the Wild changing its travel schedule so it can practice in the high altitude of Denver tomorrow.
NHL playoff capsules, by Kent Youngblood
And, my predictions (scrutinize away because I may have tossed in a crazy upset or two). As for my Wild prediction, I can 100 percent see the Wild winning this series, but I had to go with my head and eyes at least in the prediction department. I think it'll be a long, intense series, but it just seems to be Semyon Varlamov's year and these Colorado forwards are as deep as any team in the NHL (especially if the Avs get Matt Duchene back at some point). BUT, at some point, somebody's got to get to these Colorado defensemen. They're young and inexperienced and are bound to crack, especially with Tyson Barrie and Jan Hejda banged up. But, nobody's made it happen yet. Maybe the Wild can if its players get pucks deep and go to work on the forecheck. The Avs will try to make this an end-to-end series, a rush-for-rush series, and if the Wild get lured into that, I promise you, it won't be on the winning end).
LASTLY, this was a fun thing to do, but last night I did a podcast with the Denver Post's Adrian Dater. Here is the link to his site, and then you hit a subsequent link I think to get to iTunes (it's free). We break down the series, but also talk about Twitter, our industry, accountability as beat writers and some cool behind-the-scenes stories throughout the years. It's an hour or so, but if you get time, it's probably worth a listen.
Follow Adrian throughout the series on Twitter at @adater.
A reminder, I'll be doing a live chat on startribune.com Thursday (GAME DAY!!!) at 3 p.m. CT from the Pepsi Center in Denver.
LOCAL BROADCAST SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED FOR MINNESOTA WILD’S FIRST-ROUND SERIES VERSUS COLORADO AVALANCHE
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild, along with FOX Sports North and FM 100.3 KFAN, today announced the local broadcast schedule for the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Wild takes on the Colorado Avalanche.
FOX Sports North will broadcast the first four games, including a full hour pre-game show, as well as a 30-minute post-game show. All four games will also be available on FOX Sports Wisconsin. The broadcast schedule for Games 5, 6 and 7 is still TBA.
KFAN will broadcast Wild Fanline following each playoff game. There will also be live, 90-minute pre-game shows for Game 1 (Sak’s Sports Bar in Vadnais Heights), Game 2 (Jimmy’s Food and Drink in Vadnais Heights) and Game 4 (Wild pre-game party, outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center). Dan Barriero will be live from the Game 3 pre-game party from 3-6 p.m. Pre-game shows are to be determined for Games 5, 6 and 7. KFAN will also air a 30-minute “Wild Weekly” each Wednesday at 7 p.m. throughout the playoffs. Paul Allen will do his 9 to noon show in the Wild penalty box for Game 3.
A limited number of single-game tickets remain for each of the three home games in the First Round, and can be purchased at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office and TicketMaster. The Wild will host a pre-game party outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center for both Game 3 and Game 4. The Game 3 party will begin at 4 p.m., while the Game 4 party will start at 5 p.m.
Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoffs Local Broadcast Schedule (all times central)
Game 1 – Thur., 4/17, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 2 – Sat., 4/19, Minnesota at Colorado, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 3 – Mon., 4/21, Colorado at Minnesota, 6:00 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 4 – Thur., 4/24, Colorado at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m. – FOX Sports North, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 5 – Sat., 4/26, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 6 – Mon., 4/28, Colorado at Minnesota, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
Game 7 – Wed., 4/30, Minnesota at Colorado, TBA (if necessary) – TBA, FM 100.3 KFAN
Local TV announced soon, all times in Eastern Time
Date TIME (ET) #1 Colorado vs. #4 Minnesota Networks
Thursday, April 17 9:30 p.m. Minnesota at Colorado CNBC, TSN
Saturday, April 19 9:30 p.m. Minnesota at Colorado NBC Sports Network, TSN
Monday, April 21 7 p.m. Colorado at Minnesota NHL Network U.S., TSN
Thursday, April 24 9:30 p.m. Colorado at Minnesota CNBC, TSN2
*Saturday, April 26 TBD Minnesota at Colorado TSN
*Monday, April 28 TBD Colorado at Minnesota TSN
*Wednesday, April 30 TBD Minnesota at Colorado TSN
Date TIME (ET) #2 St. Louis vs. #3 Chicago Networks
Thursday, April 17 8 p.m. Chicago at St. Louis NBC Sports Network, CBC
Saturday, April 19 3 p.m. Chicago at St. Louis NBC, CBC
Monday, April 21 8:30 p.m. St. Louis at Chicago CNBC, CBC
Wednesday, April 23 9:30 p.m. St. Louis at Chicago NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Friday, April 25 8 p.m. Chicago at St. Louis NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Sunday, April 27 3 p.m. St. Louis at Chicago NBC, CBC
*Tuesday, April 29 TBD Chicago at St. Louis CBC
Date TIME (ET) #1 Anaheim vs. #4 Dallas Networks
Wednesday, April 16 10 p.m. Dallas at Anaheim NBC Sports Network, TSN
Friday, April 18 10 p.m. Dallas at Anaheim NBC Sports Network, TSN
Monday, April 21 9:30 p.m. Anaheim at Dallas NBC Sports Network, TSN
Wednesday, April 23 8 p.m. Anaheim at Dallas CNBC, TSN
*Friday, April 25 10:30 p.m. Dallas at Anaheim NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Sunday, April 27 TBD Anaheim at Dallas TSN
*Tuesday, April 29 TBD Dallas at Anaheim TSN
Date TIME (ET) #2 San Jose vs. #3 Los Angeles Networks
Thursday, April 17 10:30 p.m. Los Angeles at San Jose NBC Sports Network, CBC
Sunday, April 20 10 p.m. Los Angeles at San Jose NBC Sports Network, CBC
Tuesday, April 22 10 p.m. San Jose at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network, CBC
Thursday, April 24 10:30 p.m. San Jose at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Saturday, April 26 TBD Los Angeles at San Jose NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Monday, April 28 TBD San Jose at Los Angeles CBC
*Wednesday, April 30 TBD Los Angeles at San Jose CBC
Date TIME (ET) #1 Boston vs. #4 Detroit Networks
Friday, April 18 7:30 p.m. Detroit at Boston NBC Sports Network, TSN
Sunday, April 20 3 p.m. Detroit at Boston NBC, TSN
Tuesday, April 22 7:30 p.m. Boston at Detroit NBC Sports Network, TSN
Thursday, April 24 8 p.m. Boston at Detroit NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Saturday, April 26 3 p.m. Detroit at Boston NBC, TSN
*Monday, April 28 TBD Boston at Detroit TSN
*Wednesday, April 30 TBD Detroit at Boston TSN
Date TIME (ET) #2 Tampa Bay vs. #3 Montreal Networks
Wednesday, April 16 7 p.m. Montreal at Tampa Bay CNBC, CBC, RDS
Friday, April 18 7 p.m. Montreal at Tampa Bay CNBC, CBC, RDS
Sunday, April 20 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Montreal CBC, RDS, NBC Sports Network
Tuesday, April 22 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Montreal CBC, RDS, NHL Network U.S.
*Thursday, April 24 7 p.m. Montreal at Tampa Bay CNBC, CBC, RDS
*Sunday, April 27 TBD Tampa Bay at Montreal CBC, RDS, NBC Sports Network
*Tuesday, April 29 TBD Montreal at Tampa Bay CBC, RDS
Date TIME (ET) #1 Pittsburgh vs. #4 Columbus Networks
Wednesday, April 16 7:30 p.m. Columbus at Pittsburgh NBC Sports Network, CBC
Saturday, April 19 7 p.m. Columbus at Pittsburgh NBC Sports Network, CBC
Monday, April 21 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at Columbus NBC Sports Network, CBC
Wednesday, April 23 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at Columbus NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Saturday, April 26 TBD Columbus at Pittsburgh CBC
*Monday, April 28 TBD Pittsburgh at Columbus CBC
*Wednesday, April 30 TBD Columbus at Pittsburgh CBC
Date TIME (ET) #2 NY Rangers vs. #3 Philadelphia Networks
Thursday, April 17 7 p.m. Philadelphia at NY Rangers CNBC, TSN
Sunday, April 20 Noon Philadelphia at NY Rangers NBC, TSN
Tuesday, April 22 8 p.m. NY Rangers at Philadelphia CNBC, TSN
Friday, April 25 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Philadelphia CNBC, TSN
*Sunday, April 27 Noon Philadelphia at NY Rangers NBC, TSN
*Tuesday, April 29 TBD NY Rangers at Philadelphia TSN
*Wednesday, April 30 TBD Philadelphia at NY Rangers TSN
* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined
For the third time in franchise history, the Wild will face the Colorado Avalanche in the postseason.
The Avalanche won the Central Division this afternoon thanks to the plummeting St. Louis Blues’ home loss against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wild-Avs series is expected to start in Denver on Thursday.
The Avs, who are 8-1-1 in their past 10 and play a meaningless game tonight at Anaheim, has gone from 29th place to a division championship in one year with Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy in his first year as coach.
The Wild went 1-3-1 against the Avalanche this season. Since March 5, 2006, the Wild is 32-14-6 against Colorado and 13-3-3 in its past 19 in Denver.
But the Avs are a different team. Semyon Varlamov, a potential Vezina winner, just broke Roy’s single-season record with 41 wins. Guaranteed Calder winner Nathan MacKinnon, 18, is already one of the most threatening players in the West. Gabriel Landeskog is a rock-solid two-way forward, as is Ryan O’Reilly.. Bloomington’s Erik Johnson has had a terrific season on the blue line.
The Avs average the fourth-most goals per game in the NHL (3.00), although they rank 14th defensively (2.63 goals against per game).
In 2003, the Wild rallied from 3-1 down to beat Colorado in the first round. Andrew Brunette scored the most famous goal in franchise history and sent Roy into retirement by scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime. In 2008, after the Wild won the Northwest Division, Jose Theodore and the Avs stoned the Wild in six games.
“They are completely different than what they were last year,” said Jason Pominville. “They only added a couple players here or there, but their coaching staff must have done a great job there. They’re just playing with really, really good confidence. They’ve got a lot of skill up front that can make you pay.”
Added Ryan Suter on playing in Denver, “It’s a tough place to play with the altitude. If you get caught out there, that really hurts you. We enjoy playing there though. It is a tough building to play with good atmosphere, but we’ve had success there.”
The Anaheim Ducks clinched the Western Conference a second ago. That means the division winner with the second-best record will be Colorado or St. Louis.
That means the Wild, the top wildcard team in the West, will face one of those teams in the first round of the playoffs this week.
The Blues face Detroit at home at 11:30 a.m. CT. The Ducks host Colorado at 7 p.m. CT. The Wild hosts Nashville at 7 p.m. CT
- If St. Louis loses in regulation to Detroit, the Wild plays Colorado.
- If St. Louis gets a point vs. Detroit, Colorado must get a point at Anaheim to play the Wild, or the Wild plays St. Louis.
- If St. Louis beats Detroit, Colorado must beat Anaheim to play the Wild, or the Wild plays St. Louis.
Playoff series schedules will be released Sunday night. I believe the Wild will open Thursday because are there are arena conflicts in both Colorado and St. Louis on Wednesday.
Talk to you Sunday morning after the morning skates. I'll also be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission.
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