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.
Email Michael to talk about hockey.
Good morning to ya from chilly, snowy Columbus, although I know it's nothing like Minnesota right now. Wild visits the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. Due to playing last night and the team's early-morning arrival into the Buckeye State, there is no morning skate. Mike Yeo's pregame availability is later at 4:45 p.m. ET., so I'll tweet out any lineup changes then.
Guess what! My planned Sunday Insider suddenly fell through, so I need your help.
I thought this would be a good opportunity for another Russo's Rants Blog Q and A.
Here's the rules as always: Ask away.
But remember, space is a premium in Sunday's paper -- this Sunday especially -- so make the questions short, snappy and easy to answer. Please also scour the questions so there aren't repeats. Also, please don't use this blog to comment (this way, I can easily pick out questions). If you want to chat about the team or last night's game, check out Rachel's postgame blog last night below this one.
As always, I reserve the right to edit your question (shorten for space).
Thanks so much and ASK AWAY because this will be an expedited one since I need to get my Sunday Insider in this afternoon.
The Wild has the day off Tuesday and will be back on the ice Wednesday in preparation for back-to-back games Thursday (vs. Chicago) and Friday (at Columbus).
But the accolades keep coming for Josh Harding, who won his career-high 14th game last night. He leads the league with a 1.45 goals-against average and is second with a .939 save percentage. Today he was named the NHL's Third Star for the month of November.
FIRST STAR – PATRICK KANE, RW, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Kane ranked second among skaters with nine goals, including four
game-winners, and 19 points, helping the Blackhawks win 12 of 15 games to
move into first place in the NHL standings (20-4-4, 44 points). He recorded
at least one point in 13 of 15 contests, including six multi-point efforts,
and posted a career-long, 12-game point streak from Nov. 3-27 (8-9—17).
Kane also scored the game-winning goal in consecutive games twice during
the month: Nov. 6-9 versus the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars, and Nov.
25-27 against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He capped the month
with 1-1—2, his ninth multi-point performance of the season, in a 5-2
victory over the Phoenix Coyotes Nov. 30. The 25-year-old Buffalo native
and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner ranks third in the NHL with 16
goals, including a League-leading five game-winners, and tied for fifth
with 30 points in 28 games this season.
SECOND STAR – EVGENI MALKIN, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Malkin led all players with 21 assists and 25 points, including a
League-leading nine power-play assists and 10 power-play points, as the
Penguins went 9-5-1 to remain in the top spot in the Metropolitan Division
(18-9-1, 37 points). He registered at least one assist/point in 14 of 15
games, including each of Pittsburgh’s last eight contests (4-13—17). Malkin
also posted eight multi-point performances, capped by a season-high 1-3—4
effort in a 5-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers Nov. 30. According to the
Elias Sports Bureau, his 21 assists were the most by an NHL player in one
calendar month since January 1996, when Wayne Gretzky recorded 21 helpers
for the Los Angeles Kings. The 27-year-old Magnitogorsk, Russia, native
leads the League with 28 assists and ranks second with 35 points, one
behind teammate Sidney Crosby (13-23—36), in 28 games this season.
THIRD STAR – JOSH HARDING, G, MINNESOTA WILD
Harding posted an 8-2-2 record with a 1.88 goals-against
average, .926 save percentage and one shutout in helping the Wild go 9-4-2
and move into the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference (16-8-5,
37 points). He recorded his second shutout of the season (19 saves) in a
4-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils Nov. 3 and allowed two or fewer
goals in nine of 12 appearances. Harding also went 6-1-0 in seven games at
Xcel Energy Center, where he has a 32-10-2 record in 44 career starts. The
29-year-old Regina, Sask., native has appeared in 22 games this season,
leading the NHL with a 1.45 goals-against average and three shutouts (tied)
while also placing in the top three in the League in save percentage (.939)
and wins (14).
The Wild announced tonight that left wing Zach Parise, the team's leading scorer, is expected to miss between two to three weeks with a left foot contusion.
Both Parise and General Manager Chuck Fletcher said though that they actually believed they "dodged a bullet" by the news.
"I think we did dodge a little bit of a bullet with not having it broken or fractured or needing to get a surgery or anything on it," said Parise, who said he is wearing a walking boot. "If there’s any somewhat good news, that would be it."
Said Fletcher: "I think we were expecting four to six weeks, so to me, it’s disappointing to lose Zach for any amount of time, but when you look at the number of foot injuries that you see, it very easily could have been the four-to-six week scenario, and then you're talking 15 or 20 games. As crazy at it sounds, we're actually fairly pleased with the doctor's opinion today."
Parise was nailed by Alex Steen's one-timer on a late first-period penalty kill during Monday's 3-0 loss at St. Louis. He was late to the ice to begin the second period, then fought through three painful shifts before being lost for good. Once he took off his skate for the second time, he said the pain was just unbearable.
"At some point you just can't do it anymore," Parise said.
After the game, Parise was clear discomfort and only wore a dress sock on his left foot as he spoke to the media.
Parise's loss comes at the start of the Wild's toughest stretch so far this season. Eight of the next 10 games come against Phoenix, Colorado, Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim.
"Really frustrated, especially looking at the schedule that we’ve got coming up," Parise said. "We have some important games, some tough games, so the timing is not ideal, so hopefully it won’t be that long and I’ll be able to come back sooner than we’re saying."
Parise said, "A lot of it has to do with when I’ll be able to walk comfortably, when I’ll even be able to push off in a skate comfortably. Hopefully that’ll be sooner rather than later with treatment."
Fletcher said the guidelines are very vague, that it could be 10 days, it could be three weeks, that "knowing Zach, he's such a competitor and wants to play, I don't want to guess when he'll be back, but two to three is a conservative estimate. We're fortunate."
Right now, Fletcher says the Wild hasn't officially called up any forwards because the roster is in a state of flux. Wednesday morning, the Wild essentially has to count bodies. If Josh Harding can't back up, he'll go on injured reserve. If Mikael Granlund can't play, he'll go on injured reserve, too. That would allow the Wild to call up a forward and activate Keith Ballard, who is probable to return, off IR. They also have to see if Torrey Mitchell can return.
"We certainly have our share of injuries right now," Fletcher said. "We’ll just have to do our best. We believe our depth is better. this will be an opportunity for some players to step up and play bigger roles on our team. Dany Heatley has done a lot better the last couple weeks. This is an opportunity potentially for him to step up and play a bigger role. Jason Zucker is a player that didn’t make our team out of camp and now potentially there’s a bigger role staring him in the face as well. We certainly have on paper the guys that can step in and score goals. It’s going to be a challenge. You can’t replace Zach. There’s not another Zach Parise in your minor-league system, so we’ll have to rely on some other players to step up and take advantage of a bigger role and hopefully we find a way to score enough goals.”
Coach Mike Yeo will discuss what Parise's loss does to the lineup after Wednesday's morning skate.
"I think we’ll do fine," Parise said. "We’ve been playing well and we’ve been getting points and playing some good hockey. I do think we have some tough games coming up, but I think the guys will do fine and hopefully I’ll be back sooner rather than later."
Said Fletcher: "We'll see what this means. There's no reason to be overly down about it. Every team goes through this. We'll just have to deal with it."
I will be on KFAN on Wednesday from 9:55 a.m.-10:35 a.m. and also at 5:15 p.m.
I've wanted to write about this for some time, but respectfully, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter didn't want to discuss this publicly until after today's news conference to announce that he has joined the ownership group of the new Madison Capitols, which will join the USHL next fall.
Below is the press release.
As of now, there is no update as to Zach Parise's injured foot and as I mentioned last night, there's a good chance that news won't come until Wednesday morning. The Wild has the day off today and Parise's seeing the docs today. If there's any news later, I'll let you know.
MADTOWN HOCKEY, LLC ANNOUNCES NEW UNITED STATES HOCKEY LEAGUE CLUB FOR MADISON, WISCONSIN MARKET AND NAME OF TEAM; OWNERSHIP GROUP INCLUDES FORMER UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN AND CURRENT NHL STAR RYAN SUTER AND FORMER WISCONSIN HOCKEY PLAYER TOM SAGISSOR
Middleton, Wisconsin – In an announcement held today in front of a capacity crowd at the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton, Wisconsin, Madtown Hockey, LLC., announced it will compete in the United States Hockey League (USHL) starting in the fall of 2014. The name of the franchise as part of today’s announcement will be the “Madison Capitols.” The Capitols will begin competition in the 2014 USHL season and play its home games at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Also, announced today as part of the new ownership/investor group is current NHL and Minnesota Wild star defenseman, Ryan Suter, a former hockey standout at the University of Wisconsin and former Badgers hockey player and businessman, Tom Sagissor.
Suter and Sagissor join the ownership group who are hockey fans that include: Brian Schoenborn, Jeff Krol, Charles Bidwill III, Saul Trieman and Tom Garrity. The Madison Capitols will hire full-time employees, coaches and a training staff, along with securing players in the coming months that will also help provide a strong economic impact to the local community.
“Today is a wonderful day for hockey in Madison, Wisconsin,” said Garrity a native of Prairie du Chein, Wisconsin and a University of Wisconsin-Platteville graduate. “This area has always supported hockey at all levels. Fans will enjoy the USHL and its style of play. Our ownership group has a strong desire and goal to give fans a winning product on the ice and a total entertainment experience from start to finish. At the same time, we are proud to continue with the Madison Capitols name as it has a rich hockey tradition and significance in this area. We will also be active community participants to help grow the game of hockey at all levels.”
As Managing Partner of Madtown Hockey, LLC., Garrity is no stranger to the USHL, professional and collegiate athletics sports. He has worked for several high-profile professional sports organizations and leagues at a senior-level. Garrity is the founder and CEO of Quan Sports Marketing in Stillwater, Minnesota and also President/CEO of the Sioux Falls Sports, LLC., which owns and operates the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede and Northern League Baseball’s Sioux Falls Canaries. He has helped both Sioux Falls sports organizations with substantially increased attendance numbers and sponsorship revenues.
The Madison, Wisconsin community is a “hotbed” for hockey development with a successful history and team named the “Madison Capitols.” Madison formerly had a USHL team from 1984-1995. 12 players who skated in Madison during that time period ended up competing in the National Hockey League. The Capitols have been playing junior hockey in Madison since 1984.
“I am so excited about the USHL playing in Madison where I have so many friends, memories and deep hockey roots,” said Suter who had a standout career at Wisconsin and currently is an NHL All-Star defenseman with the Minnesota Wild. “This is a new and unique opportunity for me to be an owner and investor and I believe in the product and the great staff that is being assembled. I look forward to the first game and the support of the great hockey fans in the Madison area.”
Ryan Suter comes from deep hockey blood-lines in the state of Wisconsin as his father, Bob Suter, is a former Badgers star in the late 1970’s and a member of the 1977 Wisconsin National Championship hockey team along with a 1980 Gold Medal as a member of the US Olympic Ice Hockey Team. Besides Ryan, Bob’s son, Garett currently plays hockey at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Bob Suter’s younger brother Gary was a top-performer at Wisconsin and played in over 1,000 NHL games with several clubs.
Sagissor, a former Badger hockey standout who was a member of the 1990 National Championship hockey team and also went on to play professional with the Montreal Canadiens organization. He is now a successful Divisional Director for RBC’s Wealth Management Group in Minnesota. He was a fifth round draft pick (96th overall) of the Canadiens in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft after a stellar high school career at Hastings (MN) High School. Sagissor is currently Director of Hockey in the Stillwater (MN) Youth Hockey Association and he serves on the Board of Directors for “Defending the Blue Line” non-profit organization assisting military families in need. Sagissor is still an active member in the University of Wisconsin “W” Club that raises funds for Badger Athletics.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime to bring a USHL club to a great hockey community like Madison,” said Sagissor. “I know the fans in this area will love to watch the development of these players over time. We wanted to keep the great tradition with the name Madison Capitols as it means so much to the history of hockey in this marketplace. I cannot wait for the team to drop the puck next fall.”
Added USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince, “We’re excited to bring the USHL to one of the Midwest’s greatest cities and hockey communities. Madison’s ownership and senior-management have already proven themselves to be innovative, focused and committed to making Hockey Night at the Alliant Energy Center a must-see event. We’re counting down the days until a team with the Wisconsin state capital’s name on their sweater hits the home ice. This will be special.”
In addition, announcements for the Madison Capitols in the past few months, included naming former long-time Denver University Assistant Hockey Coach and Sun Prairie, Wisconsin native Steve Miller as General Manager/Head Coach and Ed Chamberlain to the role as Team President for Madtown Hockey, LLC and the Capitols. Both positions will report directly to Managing Partner Tom Garrity and the ownership group.
Good afternoon from chilly St. Louieee, where the Wild faces the big, bad Blues on Monday night at the house formerly called, Kiel Center.
Josh Harding, who was hurt in warmups Saturday in Winnipeg, returned to the Twin Cities this morning on a commercial flight from St. Louis. The MRI on his left leg “checked out,” according to Mike Yeo, meaning it was negative. Harding had one more doctor’s appointment this afternoon.
Apparently, Harding sustained some kind of spasms during warmup. It didn’t happen from stepping on a puck, as some reported.
The team is hoping Harding lets them know later today if he thinks he can return to St. Louis on Monday and back up Niklas Backstrom. The reason why this is important?
The Wild’s at the max 23-man roster – 14 forwards (includes Mike Rupp; activated off IR to make him eligible for conditioning stint to Iowa), 7 defensemen, 2 goalies.
Mikael Granlund, who missed yesterday’s game in Winnipeg with an upper-body injury, didn’t practice for the second consecutive practice today. If he can’t play against the Blues, the only way the Wild can call up a forward is to place Torrey Mitchell (leg) on injured reserve. But if Harding can’t back up, Mitchell will be placed on IR so Darcy Kuemper is officially added to the roster to back up.
If that were the case, the Wild will either have to dress seven defensemen (Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba) again like Winnipeg or Rupp, expected to join the Wild after playing five games for Iowa on a conditioning stint that ended yesterday, would have to make his season debut. Reports are Rupp did get better every game but that he looked slow with his skating (not that Rupp’s ever been a speedster, especially with the recent knee issues).
“Everything seems good,” Yeo said of Harding. “If he feels good enough, we’re hoping he can back up tomorrow. But again, comfort wise, his pain tolerance, he has to be able to go out and perform if needed to.”
Yeo hasn’t ruled out Granlund against the Blues, but he hasn’t been on the ice since the Ottawa game. I asked Granlund to talk today, but he didn’t want to. He’s showing no signs of an obvious injury. I asked Yeo if it’s a concussion – he’s played four games since the Nazem Kadri head shot, but he was crushed into the boards by Marc Methot in Ottawa – and Yeo just said it’s an upper-body injury and wouldn’t say when it happened or how or what.
Jared Spurgeon didn’t practice today, but Yeo says he expects him to be in the lineup Monday night.
Yeo said in his mind, Keith Ballard isn’t ready, plus for Ballard to play, two players would have to go on IR.
Yeo said all lineup decisions will be made Monday, and again, a lot has to do with how Harding feels and if he returns to St. Louis.
Beginning Monday in St. Louis, nine of the Wild’s next 11 games come against the top five teams in the Western Conference and the current eighth-place team – in order, Anaheim, Chicago, St. Louis, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix. Those six teams are a combined 95-26-14 (.756).
Of those teams, the Wild has only played Anaheim and Chicago this season, going a combined 1-1-1.
So by mid-December, we’ll all get a really good sense of the Wild.
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