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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Posts about Vikings

Guessing tonight's Wild lines

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: February 17, 2013 - 10:14 AM

The Wild hosts the Detroit Red Wings late this afternoon at 5 p.m. at the X.

Jason Zucker will make his season debut, Johan Larsson his NHL debut. This puts five players 22-and-under in the Wild lineup tonight -- backup goalie Darcy Kuemper is 22, Zucker is 21, Larsson and Mikael Granlund are 20 and Jonas Brodin is 19.

I will be on Fox Sports North's Wild Live at 4:30 p.m. today and also during the first intermission around 5:40ish.

Here is today's Zucker-Larsson-Nate Prosser notebook.

Here is my Sunday column on how Kevlar socks should be made mandatory in the NHL. Only a handful of Wild players wear em, and Mike Rupp, in reaction to the awful Erik Karlsson injury in Ottawa, decided to try them against Colorado. He liked the feel and plans to continue.

Remember, at 11 a.m. on NBC, there will be a pretty moving piece on the relationship Jack Jablonski has with Vikings star Adrian Peterson.

Good morning from Chateau Russeau, where for a rarity, I didn't have to be at a morning skate. Because of the early game, the players didn't go down to the X today, so I can't give you the lines so many of you are curious about. We will talk to coach MIke Yeo at 3 p.m., so I will blog and tweet them soon after.

Niklas Backstrom vs. Petr Mrazek tonight. Mrazek is a 21-year-old Czech who tore up the AHL during the lockout and won his only start of the season vs. St. Louis.

To guess lines, one we know. After combining for two goals in the shootout loss to Colorado on Thursday, you know Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley will remain intact.

From there, it's just a guess because Pierre-Marc Bouchard was sick yesterday and likely won't play today and because Yeo will have to choose one other forward to come out.

My guess is Zucker slots right into a line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi because Torrey Mitchell filled in there yesterday.

The other line in practice was: Mikael Granlund-Kyle Brodziak-Cal Clutterbuck in practice. So if that stays the same, perhaps Yeo just slots Larsson onto the fourth line with Mike Rupp and Zenon Konopka and sits Mitchell? Or perhaps he plays Mitchell and has Larsson center the fourth line with Rupp. I'd think Rupp plays because he scored last game and was the forward Yeo pretty much chose to get more ice time once Clutterbuck left the game. Remember also, Konopka took a bad penalty against the Avs and Yeo made his displeasure known by not giving Konopka another shift.

Still, my guess is that Mitchell sits.

The only caveat to all this is if the club isn't comfortable playing a banged up Clutterbuck, who did feel better yesterday but was having issues with peripheral vision in the second period of the Colorado game. That's why he left the game.

Again, despite Brodziak's rough start to this season and tough shift after the Mikko Koivu go-ahead goal the other night, I can't see the only right-shot center being scratched. He comes in handy on defensive-zone right-circle draws.

Funny tweet, by the way, from Konopka yesterday at @zenonkonopka: "I think that Jonas Brodin should get some serious consideration for the Calder trophy (rookie of the year), side note- I may adopt the kid"

OK, that's it. I'll update blog after we talk to Yeo.

Reilly, Lucia, Potulny go for gold with the U.S. at the world junior championships

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: January 4, 2013 - 4:44 PM
Moments after beating Canada in the semifinals of the world junior championships in Ufa, Russia on Thursday, Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly texted back and forth with buddy Jake Gardiner, the former Minnetonka High star that plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In 2010, Gardiner represented the United States and won gold with fellow Minnesotans Derek Stepan, Danny Kristo, Jordan Schroeder and Mike Lee in Saskatchewan.
“We talked quite a bit the other night and Jake says it was one of the best moments of his life to win, so that’s what I’m shooting for – to bring back a gold,” said Reilly, who hails from Chanhassen, played at Holy Angels and won a BCHL title with Penticton last year.
Reilly and Mario Lucia, the son of Gophers coach Don Lucia, are the two Minnesotans wearing red, white and blue (Lucia was born in Alaska but moved to Minnesota in kindergarten). The team is coached by three Minnesotans – head coach Phil Housley and assistants Mark Osiecki and Grant Potulny.
They are going for the Americans’ third-ever gold medal in the Under-20 world championships Saturday (7 a.m. CT; can be watched on NHL Network and NHL.com) against Sweden.
I talked with Reilly, Lucia and Potulny late last night from Russia.
“You watched [the U.S. win gold] on TV twice and think, ‘Wow, what a great day to be an American. Now getting an opportunity is obviously very exciting. We’re halfway home,” said Potulny, a Gophers’ assistant. “You almost want to stay in the moment here a little bit so you don’t start planning ahead too far because there will be plenty of time to celebrate if we do in fact win the game [Saturday].”
The Americans opened the tournament with an 8-0 win over Germany in the prelims, but then suffered 2-1 losses to Russia and Canada. That caused a must-win against Slovakia, and the Americans blew them out, 9-3.
They advanced to play the Czechs in the quarters, winning 7-zip, before beating Canada, 5-1. Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau continued his offensive assault with two more goals (seven in the past three), Wisconsin's Jake McCabe, the U.S. captain, had two goals and an assist and John Gibson made 36 saves.
“I think game by game we’re getting better and better as a team and that’s just what we need coming into the gold-medal game,” the superb-skating Reilly, now Connor Murphy’s defense partner after opening the tournament as Seth Jones’, said. “Playing the first games against Russia and Canada gave us a little scare there, but we just got to stay the path and keep betting better as a team. We played well against those two teams but just couldn’t put enough goals in the back of the net.”
Reilly and Potulny say the issues against Russia and Canada in the prelims were as simple as running into hot goalies and just not doing enough to create around the net.
“We had to create chemistry between one another,” said Reilly, who has three points and is plus-4. “We’re all used to playing on different teams – almost every guy, so in a quick tournament like this with only about seven games, it does take a bit of time to come together as a team. I feel we’re there now.”
Added Potulny, “With some of the guys, you hate to say it, but you almost had to stay patient because you knew that their history has shown that they can score. They’ve scored at every level. We juggled a little bit with moving a couple guys around. That may have kickstarted it. But my opinion is after awhile you play together, you get a little chemistry going.”
Defenseman Jacob Trouba has been outstanding throughout the tournament with eight points, while JT Miller and Alex Galchenyuk have caught fire with eight each as well.
Reilly says the U.S. will have its “hands full” with Sweden. The Americans beat Sweden 3-2 in overtime in an exhibition game in Finland, but both teams didn’t play their full lineups.
Sweden beat Russia in a shootout to advance to the gold-medal game and Potulny said, “That game was like a track meet. The pace of that game was crazy. The Swedes are probably the best team here at protecting the puck. It’s almost like keep-away. You’ve got to find a way to shut them down because otherwise, they’re going to hold onto it and hold onto it and hold onto it. You can’t puck watch because the moment you leave a guy open, they’re going to make a play because they’ve got skill.”
The U.S. coaching staff got to watch Sweden practice before they left Finland and Potulny said, “It looked like a North American practice -- competing and 1-on-1’s and 2-on-2’s and net battling and things at least I didn’t expect to see out of the Swedes.”
It’s been a tough tournament for Wild prospect Mario Lucia, the Notre Dame freshman (CCHA Rookie of the Month) slotted as the team’s 13th forward the past two games. He has sat on the bench the past two games but didn’t see a shift. After the win over Canada, his father, Don, sent him an email.
“I said, ‘Just think, you got hurt in August (broke tibia, tore ligaments in his ankle) and now you’re a part of it. This is your role right now. There’s only two Minnesota kids on the team and only one forward. Think of those odds. Be the best teammate you can be,’” Don Lucia said. “And he understands that. He’s an injury away, so be ready to go. Would he like to play? Sure. But this is the role he’s been given and be proud of the fact you’re a win from gold.”
Potulny said Lucia has handled this maturely.
“Anytime you come here and move guys around and juggle lines, a lot of times when you juggle, whoever becomes that 13th forward, it’s not because of what he hasn’t done,” Potulny said. “It’s just trying to get a different look for your lineup after losing to Russia and Canada.
“Unfortunately for Mario, the moment we did roll those around, that’s when Gaudreau gets hot, that’s when the power play gets going. By no fault of his own, almost bad timing for him, we caught fire when he became 13th forward. But he’s handled everything with class. He’s been our biggest cheerleader on the bench. He’s been into it and engaged. Right now it’s hard, but we had a conversation, two years ago when he was at Wayzata if we would have said, ‘hey, you’re one game away from playing in the gold-medal game at world junior,’ he would have taken it and thought it would be cool to be part of it. And if we do need him [Saturday], he’ll be ready.”
And that’s exactly what Mario Lucia said.
“The first time I was slotted as the 13th forward, it was a little hard to swallow,” Lucia said. “But I accept it. I worked my butt off to get back and get healthy and to be here. I’m looking at it this way and looking at the glass half full, not empty. My goal was to make the world junior team.
“Any kid would be dying to be in my shoes right now, to be here and be at this tournament. I’m thrilled to be here. We’re winning and that’s all that matters. When you look at it 10 years down road, you’re not going to know who scored the goals, they’re just going to know you were part of the team that won. Hopefully we’ll win gold on Saturday.”
And as Reilly said, “It would be awesome. I’ve never really put the USA jersey on a lot, but a lot of guys here have and it’s special to all of us. I know a lot of people are watching and rooting for us. It would be great for our country.”
The No. 1-ranked Gophers face Mario Lucia’s No. 2-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Mariucci on Tuesday, and Lucia made clear he plans to play despite returning to Minnesota on Sunday night and the 12-hour time difference.
Reilly hopes to play, too, but Don Lucia says he may give him the game off to rest up for the weekend conference series against Alaska-Anchorage.
Mario Lucia and Reilly are buddies, were teammates on Penticton and roommates in Russia.
“I want him to play obviously,” Lucia said. “I think he wants to play. I think it’ll be a fun game, too, and the fans should make it a sold-out barn – No. 1 vs. 2.”
I will have a lot more on Mario Lucia facing Don Lucia in Tuesday’s newspaper, but Reilly did say he hopes to play.
“I’ll worry more about it when we get home, but I for sure want to play because it’s Notre Dame. They’re the second-rated team and I know Mario’s playing in that. But it’s a coach’s decision. I know the time change will be different. I’ll see how I adjust.”
(For Don Lucia’s reasoning as to why he may not play Reilly, see two blogs ago).
Potulny and Reilly are excited that the Gophers won the Mariucci Classic with wins over Air Force and Boston College and took the No. 1 ranking in the country.
“I think they cut the dead weight and got me out of there,” Potulny joked. “They’ve been rolling. It’s almost the same thing with our group here, you have stay patient with your guys because you knew Nick [Bjugstad], Kyle [Rau], Nate Condon would score. And [goalie] Adam [Wilcox] has given us a chance to win the whole time. We just hadn’t been scoring, and if you think about it, that would have been an odd thing for us to say at the beginning of the year.
“But the guys regrouped during the break and they know what the end goal is here.”
Ryan Reilly, Mike’s older brother, scored his first collegiate goal in the win over Air Force.
“Mom texted me right away. That was awesome,” Mike Reilly said.
(By the way, I met injured Connor Reilly for the first time today down at the rink. Nicest kid and he’s coming along well with his rehab on his knee).
Potulny, a huge Vikings fans, is looking forward to getting home. He spent a lot of the conversation asking for Vikings and NHL lockout updates.
On Ufa, Russia, where the sun rises close to 11 a.m.: “We can take it off my bucket list. We don’t have to come back.”
(He was actually very complimentary of the city and the experience.)

NHL/NHLPA working to salvage season; USA-Canada world junior rematch Thursday

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: January 2, 2013 - 6:49 AM

After working past midnight on New Year's Eve and all day New Year's Day, the NHL extended a "comprehensive response" to the NHLPA's comprehensive response to the NHL's latest proposal late Tuesday night.

Got it?

Basically, the NHL and NHLPA are in a negotiating game of ping-pong, which is very much a good thing.

Good morning. I'll be filling in from 12-3 on KFAN (100.3 FM) today, so please tune in. You can also tweet me questions at @russostrib or leave them on my Facebook page.

Guests today include Gophers coach Don Lucia (12:35 p.m.), St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock (1:20 p.m.), Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch (1:35 p.m.), Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall (12:15 p.m.) and WCCO's Mark Rosen from 2-3.

The NHLPA took the NHL's latest response last night in order to digest it and likely respond to it today. There's a very good chance the two sides meet again.

"In our response, there were certain things that the Players' association asked for that we agreed to, there were some things that we moved in their direction and there were other things that we said no," Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in New York. "But that's part of the process."

Three proposals have been exchanged in the past five days. A deal must be struck by Jan. 11, or the season likely will be canceled. The plan is for training camp to start by Jan. 12 and a 48-game season to begin Jan. 19 if a collective bargaining agreement can be reached.

Realisticallty, a deal must be reached before Jan. 11 in order to get it fully down on paper, lawyered up and ratified.

The NHLPA has until midnight tonight if it wants to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union, but with both sides creeping closer, that's unlikely. The NHLPA could always vote as a membership again to file a disclaimer of interest at a later date if things go haywire.

But I don't see that happening. I truly believe a deal will be struck in the coming days. There's several part of the pact that has already been agreed upon, and as RDS reported last night, the NHLPA is willing to do a 10-year CBA now under certain conditions and the sides are close to an agreement on revenue sharing.

The main things being tackled now are pensions and what the upper limit of the salary cap will be starting in 2013-14. The NHL's proposal of $60 million was unacceptable to the NHLPA.

"The fact that we're involved in a continuous process is something that I'm glad to see, but we're clearly not done yet," said Bettman.

But players I talk to are confident and more and more players are starting to trickle back from Europe in anticipation of camps starting.


I'm up early because I couldn't fall back to sleep after my 3 a.m. wakeup call to watch the U.S. Czechs. No contest as the Americans won big, 7-0, in the quarterfinals to advance to a 3 a.m. CT Thursday rematch against Canada. The U.S. lost 2-1 to Canada a few days ago. The game can be seen on NHL Network and NHL.com.

Johnny Gaudreau had a hat trick today and has five goals in two games, showing why Don Lucia said after the Gophers' 8-1 win over Boston College on Sunday that the win should have an "asterisk" on it because the Eagles were without Gaudreau and two injured veteran defensemen.

Riley Barker had two goals, JT Miller had a goal and two assists, Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones had four assists apiece and John Gibson had the shutout with 31 saves. Trying to decipher the boxscore, but I think the Americans went 5 for 12 on the power play and there were 18 or 19 power plays in the tightly-called game.

OK, that's it. Give me a listen please on the radio if you want to hear some Vikings, puck talk and a little bit of everything with Rosie. And of course I'll be up at 3 a.m. for the semifinal, although I've been keeping the tweets to a minimum because I don't want to wake up anybody who happens to get my tweets texted to their phones.

Get ready folks. NHL season on the horizon.

NHL, NHLPA done for the day, no progress reported

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: December 12, 2012 - 6:28 PM


Today's meeting between the NHL and NHLPA with mediators has concluded in New Jersey after 6 1/2 hours.

The sides met separately with mediators and were never in the same room. No progress was made.

According to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, there is no re-tabled offer on the table (although that's been contradicted and players say the league offered last week's take it or leave it deal again; league says mediatoractually  is the one who said 'would you re-offer it'). There are no plans yet as to when the two sides will meet again.

The mediator will meet with the players tonight, and then the mediators will get in touch with the league as to what was discussed.

I'm told the league spent about 15 or 20 minutes with mediators today and hours with the players because the league made clear there's no communication issue, that their stance is clear: "tell us when you're ready to play." My guess is that could be under the last proposal, although the league has not actually said that.

That proposal was 50/50, 10-year CBA, $300 million Make Whole, 5-year max deals (7 to re-sign your own player) and 5% variances in salary per year.

In other words, the owners are done negotiating. Unless they're bluffing, the next move will have to come from the players deciding if they want to throw away 100 percent of their salaries because they want an 8-year CBA or a little longer term in a max deal. Transition rules also must be determined.

Brendan Morrison was quoted by Tom Gulitti (the Record, @tgulitti): “I never thought the issues were as big as they were back in 04-05. Apparently, I was wrong. I thought the gap would be closed much quicker, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet, so we have to keep working.”

According to Morrison via Gulitti, the players had to make a decision today whether to take the NHL's last proposal last week (the one the league claimed it was taking off the table), and "It wasn't much of a decision."

Again though, the league denies that proposal was ever actually re-tabled.

Fun, isn't this?

So, in conclusion, they tried a mediator two weeks ago. Went nowhere. Went without a mediator last week and made some progress, went back to a mediator and made no progress.

Why? Because mediators go from room to room asking, "what if they did this" questions. The league knows what it wants. It's made that position clear to the union, like it or not. So for them, mediation is not working because both sides aren't miscommunicating with each other. Both sides know what the other wants.

The league is at the take it or leave it stage of this lockout. 

I still believe these guys get a deal done. It's just a matter of when. League needs to announce a drop-dead date, which my guess is Jan. 15 to play a 48-game schedule. If that's the case, early January a deal must be done.

Announce it already, apply a pressure point and see what happens.


I will be filling in for Paul Allen from 9-noon Thursday on KFAN (100.3-FM). Plenty of NHL/NFL/NBA guests, including Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist Nick Cotsonika, Wild coach Mike Yeo, Fox Sports North's Marney Gellner, Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall and others.

Please tune in, tweet me with questions at @russostrib, post questions on my facebook.com/startribunemikerusso page or call in.

Also on Friday, I will be hosting a live chat on startribune.com at 1 p.m.

Wild searches for emergency goalie; "Russo Radio" this morning on KFAN

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 14, 2012 - 6:26 AM

Good morning. I'm up because I have an early-morning flight out of Philly. The Wild wrapped up a six-game road trip against the Flyers last night.

Sorry, that was just in my dreams.

I'm actually awake because I've been cramming for an exam, uh, I mean show-prepping. I'm filling in for Paul Allen this morning from 9-noon on KFAN (100.3-FM).

Please tune in. We'll be talking plenty of hockey, both NHL (my friend tells me the Wild are 8-4-3 in his simulated NHL13 season; FIFTH IN THE WEST!!!!) and Gophers. We'll be talking Vikings and Wolves, and maybe sprinkle in a little potshots at Jeffrey Loria, the besieged owner of the biggest laughing stock in sports, the Miami Marlins, who dumped almost $164 million in payroll last night in a trade with Toronto. Nice of Loria to once upon a time ruin my Expos and now re-stock the Blue Jays.

Oh, Major League Baseball -- the pride and joy of Donald Fehr!

I've got some great guests lined up: at 9:15, Gophers defenseman and go-to quote Nate Schmidt; at 9:35, Aeros GM Jim Mill, who may be the busiest man in the Wild hockey ops department; in studio at 9:55-10:30 is former Vikings linebacker and now KFAN contributor Ben Leber; at 10:35, longtime former NHL forward and now NHL analyst, the well-spoken Ray Ferraro and from 11-11:40, I believe in studio, the first-ever Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Tom Chorske.

If you have any questions for any of the guests or for myself, you can obviously call the show OR leave me a question by following me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib OR leaving the question on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso.

My plan is to particularly take calls during Leber's segment and Chorske's because they are extended segments.


I'll be back on with a blog later this afternoon after Gophers men's hockey availability, but they take on Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday at Mariucci. In addition, if you want to get a rare pro hockey fix, the Aeros host Rockford at 5 p.m. Sunday at the X.

Tickets are complimentary for season-ticket holders by calling your sales rep, and for all others, they're $20 and can be purchased at the X box office, wild.com and Ticketmaster.

In for the game will be prospects like Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, Zack Phillips, Brett Bulmer, Tyler Cuma, Justin Fontaine, Chay Genoway, stud AHL defenseman and Bloomington's own Brian Connelly, David McIntyre, etc., etc. NHLer Marco Scandella, a 2010 second-rounder, will also be playing.

We'll find out from Mill on the radio of some of the injured guys like Chad Rau and Darcy Kuemper and why Matt Hackett has been so rocky. Mikael Granlund has been ruled out from the game with a sprained ankle, and Jonas Brodin unfortunately is out with a broken clavicle.

The Wild are doing a pretty neat thing, by the way.

Remember last year when the Wild had to hustle to sign an emergency goalie because Matt Hackett's plane was late? Hackett was to back up Josh Harding because Niklas Backstrom was about to become a papa.

In emergency situations, you can sign anyone with pro experience, so the Wild turned to a 51-year-old beer league goalie named Paul Deutsch. He tended goal in warmups, but Hackett just arrived for the game.

To keep from scrambling again (assuming the NHL someday returns), the Wild is holding a contest to find the team's next emergency goalie.

It had selected 11 goaltenders to compete in an an on-ice audition before a panel of judges including Wild goaltending coach Bob Mason, Deutsch himself and Wild TV analyst and former IHL champion Mike Greenlay on Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the X.

The 11 goalies selected to take part:

Tyler Brigl – 27, Saint Paul
Kevin Donohue – 23, Minneapolis
Ryan Ess – 31, Minneapolis
Shane Hudella – 41, Hastings
Amy Jones – 29, Brooklyn Center
Treye Kettwick – 29, Minneapolis
Mark Klaers – 44, St. Louis Park
Mark Ostlund – 24, Saint Paul
Alan Strahota – 27, Burnsville
Joshua Swartout – 24, St. Louis Park
Adam Timperley – 30, Rogers

I'm not rooting, but it'd be a pretty neat story if Jones wins.

Anyway, two finalists will be invited to take part in a shootout against celebrity shooters during the second intermission of the Aeros-IceHogs game Sunday. The goalie that does the best in the shootout will be named the Wild’s next emergency goaltender, with the runner-up named next in line.


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