This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael 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.
Email Michael to talk about hockey.
With Hockey Day Minnesota getting off to an unofficial start this evening as the Gophers host rival North Dakota, the Wild is ready to open the 2013 season Saturday night at 8 p.m. against the Northwest Division rival Colorado Avalanche.
It'll be the nightcap to Hockey Day on Fox Sports North.
We have a lot of coverage in Saturday's paper, including my season advance on how the Wild says it's time for the organization to take the next step and end its four-year playoff drought.
Each player got undershirts that read, "TAKE THE NEXT STEP. NO EXCUSES."
Also, Chip Scoggins wrote a real good column on Mikko Koivu and how he's handling almost being overshadowed as captain and I wrote a notebook on a number of subjects and of course a preview box on the game.
The news of the day:
-- Tom Gilbert (groin) says he is "good to go," meaning Matt Dumba likely won't make his NHL debut.
-- Pierre-Marc Bouchard is excited to play his first game in more than a year.
-- Coach Mike Yeo said Matt Kassian will likely not play, but Yeo did say that if Colorado brought a tough lineup, which may include minor-league fighter Patrick Bordeleau, than Kassian may be in the lineup. My guess: If that's the case, maybe Darroll Powe won't play because Kassian could take his left-wing spot and Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell are a PK pair.
The Wild is 10-0-1 in home openers AT Xcel Energy Center (I put that caveat because technically the Wild didn't win its "home opener" against Carolina in Helsinki), including 10 consecutive wins.
Niklas Backstrom (20-5-2 all-time vs. Colorado) vs. Semyon Varlamov (4-0 against the Wild) on Saturday.
I will be on KFAN at 12:55 p.m. AND 6:45 p.m. Saturday and I will now be a contributor all season periodically on Fox Sports North. I should be on Saturday at 3:45 p.m.ish depending on when the high school game ends.
Talk to you Saturday. Opening Night everybody. Finally!
The Wild is currently on the ice for practice -- its last before Saturday's 8 p.m. opener against Colorado. Defenseman Tom Gilbert (groin) is practicing, so if he gets the clearance, he should be in Saturday's lineup.
If that's the case, Matt Dumba likely wouldn't play in the opener over the other six healthy defensemen.
Forwards Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux and Jake Dowell have all cleared waivers and will be assigned to AHL Houston, says a source.
Official rosters must be submitted to the league Friday at 4 p.m. -- changed from 2 -- but as you know, the roster on yesterday's blog is the anticipated official roster.
“BECOMING WILD” PRESENTED BY TOYOTA BACK ON AIR
TUESDAY, JAN. 22 WITH NEW EPISODES
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Minnesota Wild today announced that Emmy Award-winning “Becoming Wild” presented by Toyota returns to FOX Sports North on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 10 p.m. after the Wild game’s versus Nashville, with an episode featuring Tom Gilbert shot in Madison, Wis.
“Becoming Wild” will also take fans exclusively to the hometowns of players Niklas Backstrom (Helsinki, Finland), Dany Heatley (Kelowna, B.C.) and Mikko Koivu (Turku, Finland).
“Becoming Wild” Premiere Dates:
Episode 3 Tuesday, Jan. 22 10:00 p.m. Tom Gilbert in Madison, Wisconsin
Episode 4 Tuesday, Jan. 29 10:00 p.m. Niklas Backstrom in Helsinki, Finland
Episode 5 Monday, Feb. 4 7:00 p.m. Dany Heatley in Kelowna, British Columbia
Episode 6 Tuesday, Feb. 12 8:00 p.m. Mikko Koivu in Turku, Finland
With rosters having to be submitted Friday at 2 p.m., the Wild has placed Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux and Jake Dowell on waivers this morning.
If cleared, all three would likely be reassigned if cleared. Matt Kassian, as expected, is the 13th forward and the Wild won't keep a 14th forward for now.
Steve Kampfer has also been reassigned. He didn't require waivers. He can be recalled at any time, but with Kampfer gone, Matt Dumba sticks for now.
"He's earned it," coach Mike Yeo said.
Remember, the 18-year-old defenseman can play in five games without 1) the first year of his three-year deal burning off; 2) his contract counting as one of the Wild's 50. That is key because the Wild is at the max 50.
So there's no telling how long he will be here. In his mind, he just survived another day.
"It's pretty crazy," Dumba said. "These last five days have gone by so quick for me. It's an awesome feeling to be here right now."
Also, Jonas Brodin practiced today with the Wild. He is getting closer to a return. He looked good, but Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher has said ideally they'd like to get him a few games with Houston before throwing him into the NHL lineup.
We'll see if that changes down the road here.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard has officially been activated off injured reserve.
Defenseman Tom Gilbert (groin) didn't practice today for precautionary reasons, Yeo said. He is expected to practice Friday and be ready for the opener Saturday.
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Matt Cullen-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-P-M Bouchard
Darroll Powe-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser
Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin working their way back from injuries; getting closer.
The Wild's home opener Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche and the Feb. 17 game against the Detroit Red Wings sold out within an hour of single-game tickets going on sale this morning.
The Xcel Energy Center box office will remain open throughout the day, and tickets can be purchased on wild.com and ticketmaster.com starting at noon.
Also, items have been flying off the shelves at the three Hockey Lodge locations, I'm told, as the team holds an all-day 50% off sale (while supplies last, limit of one jersey per person).
Also, all tickets have been distributed for tonight's 7 p.m. scrimmage at the X. Doors open at 6.
NHL ALUMNI TO PLAY IN BENEFIT GAME FOR FORMER NHL’er
The Minnesota NHL Alumni Association has announced support and participation in a benefit
celebrity game for former Buffalo Sabre/Hartford Whaler/Pittsburgh Penguin and Minnesota native
Jeff has been a victim of Cardio Pulmonary Hypertension and other medical complications after
suffering a hit into the penalty box door/metal standard that holds the Plexiglas while playing for the
Hartford Whalers in a 1991 game versus the Washington Capitals - this ended his career due to a
major head injury that led to other medical issues.
There will be a benefit on Saturday, February 2nd 2013 in Chisago, MN. The benefit will consist of ex-
NHL players participating in an exhibition game on February 2nd from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at the Chisago
Lakes Arena. NHL Alumni members scheduled to play in this benefit will be:
Antti Laaksonen, Shjon Podein, Don Beaupre, Brad Maxwell, Gordie Roberts, Bob Paradise, Bob Bergloff, Reed Larson, Dan Mandich, Carl Wetzel, Chris Dahlquist, Sean Toomey, Tom Younghans and Dave Snuggerud.
There will be a VIP Dinner & Auction at The Gallery Bar & Grill at Chisago Lakes Golf Club following
the game. Social Hour will be from 5:00 to 6:30 pm with dinner following. $50 will get you a game
ticket, dinner & two drink tickets. Complete information, updates and directions at www.jeffparker.org.
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