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.
The puck drops on the 2013 Minnesota Wild season in 96 hours. Because of that, Wednesday night's 7 p.m. scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center will mean a lot.
Good evening from Chateau Russo, where I'm so glad to be writing about neutral-zone forechecks and not disclaimers of interests and memorandums of understandings.
The Wild re-released a limited amount of tickets for Wednesday's scrimmage and they've already been scooped up, so unless you have a ticket, find a really good friend that has one and beg OR watch on Fox Sports North OR listen to KFAN (100.3-FM).
And, of course, follow along on my Twitter, @russostrib.
FSN coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with a pregame show, and remember, Becoming Wild Episode 1, (I've dubbed, The Cal Clutterbuck Story) will re-air at 6 p.m. Episode 1 will re-air again after the scrimmage, followed by Becoming Wild, Episode 2 (I've dubbed, The Life and Times of Kyle Brodziak's Brother's Mustache).
Doors open at 6. Also, all Hockey Lodge locations will hold a 50% off sale all day. The sale is limited to floor stock only while supplies last and a limit of one jersey per person. Tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. at the X; noon at wild.com and Ticketmaster.
The scrimmage will be a real one. There will Wild and Aeros split between the two teams. Real rules, refs, 20-minute periods with new 18-minute intermissions that will make my heart explode on deadline.
The scrimmage will be real important for a number of guys: (I'm hoping Mikko has a good game," joked Yeo).
The top-12 forwards are pretty much set:
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
Eleven of those forwards are on one-way deals, which means they'd have to get their NHL salaries in the minors (not Granlund).
Max, the Wild can only keep 13 or 14 forwards, so that will likely be two of Matt Kassian (one-way), Stephane Veilleux, Jake Dowell or Nick Palmieri.
Coach Mike Yeo said this is a very important scrimmage for them. It's their last evaluation. For any of those four to get the minors, they have to be put on waivers. That would have to come Thursday because opening night rosters must be submitted Friday at 2 p.m. CT.
But as you can read in my story in Wednesday's paper, GM Chuck Fletcher said the opening lineup could be rendered meaningless by Game 2. With injuries and performance in a shortened season, there will be plenty of adjustments this year, so if you don't make the team, you'll be back.
That's especially true for prospects like Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Johan Larsson.
"Whether it's guys that are here, guys in Houston, we're going to have good depth, and good in the sense that we have youth and we have veteran presence, and sometimes you need one, and sometimes you need the other," Yeo said. "We also have skill and we have role players, and again, sometimes you need one and sometimes you need the other."
Again, the anticipated D pairings are (with Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin hurt; both skated today; few weeks away):
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser
Steve Kampfer and Matt Dumba are the extras right now
By the way, if you didn't notice, Vancouver's David Booth is out six weeks with a torn groin sustained in fitness testing. Just mentioning it because this is the exact reason Fletcher said he chose not to do fitness testing this year. He wanted to avoid somebody getting hurt during it.
-Sale is while supplies last and includes floor stock only
-Strict limit of one jersey per person – NO Exceptions. Inventory of Player Name and Number Jerseys is limited to items on the floor only
- No other discounts apply or are able to be combined with the 50% offer
- All sales are FINAL. Size exchanges only.
-The Hockey Lodge Store hours for Wednesday - Maplewood Mall Open 10AM – 9PM, Burnsville Center Open 10AM – 9PM, Main Store at Xcel Energy Center 8AM – 5PM (after 5PM Wednesday, only guests holding a ticket to the Red vs White Intra-Squad Scrimmage will be able to access the store.
The Wild will be scrimmaging tonight at Xcel Energy Center. It is closed to the public, but for updates, you can follow me on Twitter at @russostrib and of course I will blog afterward.
I have gotten a lot of questions about what the Wild power-play units may look like. We may have gotten an early glimpse at the start of today's practice.
The two units practicing were Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley with Ryan Suter and Pierre-Marc Bouchard at the points. The second unit was Matt Cullen-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi with Tom Gilbert and Jared Spurgeon at the points.
We'll see how it works. I typically like Cullen at the point and a Kyle Brodziak or Cal Clutterbuck up front, but there may be times we say that based on injuries and who takes penalties.
The Houston Aeros are in town for the scrimmages.
Remember, as of right now at least, the team has suspended ticket distribution for Wednesday's 7 p.m. scrimmage due to high demand. Some still may be made available if the season-ticket holders don't gobble them up.
If you can't get in the building, it will be broadcast on Fox Sports North and KFAN.
FROM THE NHL
NHL CENTER ICE ON DIGITAL CABLE TO RESUME STARTING JAN. 19
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE LAUNCHES THE 2012-13 SEASON
WITH A 13 DAY FREE PREVIEW
NHL Center Ice Offers Fans Up to 40 Games Per Week,
Along With a Number of Free Enhancements
NEW YORK, Jan. 14 – In celebration of the NHL’s return, digital cable customers will receive a free preview of NHLÒ Center IceÒ from Jan. 19 through Jan. 31, 2013, announced the National Hockey League (NHL) and package distributor iN DEMAND L.L.C. The out-of-market subscription package is perfect for fans who live away from their favorite teams, for fantasy players, or those who don’t want to miss a minute of action from across the league.
With NHL® Center Ice®, digital cable customers can check out up to 40 live out-of-market NHL games every week across 14 channels, including a wealth of enhancements to enrich the viewing experience. The package is available immediately for a 2012-13 regular season price of $49.99, the lowest price ever*. The 2012-13 regular season runs from Jan. 19 through Apr. 27, 2013.
NHL GAMECENTER LIVE AVAILABLE FOR SPECIAL PRICE OF $49.99 FOR 2012-13 NHL
GCL Allows Fans to Watch Out-of-Market Games Live on Computers,
Smartphones, Tablets and Connected Devices, Including Xbox 360 for First
League Also Announces Enhanced NHL GameCenter App
NEW YORK (January 14, 2013) – The National Hockey League today announced
that NHL GameCenter LIVETM, the League’s critically acclaimed,
out-of-market, live-game streaming product, is available this season for
the special price of $49.99.
The subscription fee of $49.99 enables fans to watch live and archived
games featuring teams outside a fan’s local market across multiple screens,
including smartphones, tablets, computers and connected devices. The
special price is available for this season only.
NHL GameCenter LIVETM offers fans worldwide* the most robust live-game
viewing experience with in-game interactivity, on-demand replays, DVR
capabilities, highlights and more.
NHL GameCenter App
The NHL today also announced significant enhancements to the NHL GameCenter
™ app, the official app that provides live streaming access and video
highlights during NHL games. Available on Android phones and tablets,
iPhones and iPads (and later this season on BlackBerry 10) the redesigned
NHL GameCenterTM app now features more free video for users -- including
post-game video highlights, a live-game simulation with real-time shift
changes and play-by-play for the ultimate second-screen experience in
The re-designed app also has an improved menu structure, allowing fans to
transition easily from one section to the next and navigate more content
than ever with ease.
The NHL GameCenterTM app, available for download beginning tomorrow,
January 15, includes the following features:
NHL GameCenterTM (free)
· Live scores and stats for every team and player
· Live game simulation with near real-time shift changes, boxscores and
play-by-play (new this season)
· Post-game video highlights (new this season)
· Video on-demand content featuring the best selections from NHL
· Full-season schedule and standings
· Customized game alerts
· Player profiles with headshots, bios and stats for all active NHL
· Customizable settings for up to five favorite teams (new this season)
Upgrade to NHL GameCenter™ Premium** ($4.99 or free for Verizon tablet and
4G LTE smartphone customers)
· Live radio broadcasts (home and away)
· In-game video highlights
· Condensed game replays
Upgrade to NHL GameCenter LIVETM ($49.99 or free with broadband
· Live out-of-market game video (home and away)
· Access across multiple devices
· All NHL GameCenter™ Premium content
Verizon Wireless tablet and 4G LTE smartphone customers will continue to
get access to NHL GameCenter Premium content as well as additional
exclusive content for free. Exclusive free content for Verizon customers
includes live streams of NBC network games, NBC’s Inside the Glass and NHL
Network’s NHL On The Fly™.
Training camp officially began this morning at Xcel Energy Center when 26 players took to the ice with coaches along for the ride.
"It was fun to be out there with them and see how they teach," said new defenseman Ryan Suter.
Good evening and sorry for the very tardy blog.
I left so many questions on the cutting room floor last week, I will be hosting another live chat Monday at noon at www.startribune.com/wild, so please join in and come armed with questions.
I will also be on XM Radio at 8:05 a.m. and in studio with Paul Allen on KFAN (100.3-FM) at 9:20 a.m.
Hopefully you read Sunday's Zach Parise piece here.
I sat down this afternoon with new Wild center and bruiser Zenon Konopka and was writing a lengthy piece on him for Monday's paper.
He is known leaguewide as one of the very best interviews, and the advertising was correct. Funny, thoughtful, analytical and very interesting. I actually left a good amount out of the story for future pieces that Konopka will weigh in on.
Konopka, 31, who has the most penalty minutes in the NHL since 2009-10, owns a piece of seven businesses, including a wine label, ZK28 (zkwines.com). His newest wine is the Wild One in honor of his new team.
He also owns a wine aerator and a grape seed oil business. He's got his hand in several others, including a neck therapy collar, a supplement company, etc.
His main web site is zenonkonopka.com, so check that out, and he is brand new to Twitter, where there's no doubt he'll let everyone see his personality. That is @zenonkonopka.
Oh, and he also has a rabbit named, Hoppy, that you can read more about in Monday's paper.
"In Syracuse [in 2007-08], we had one of the toughest teams of all time in pro hockey," Konopka said. "Really, it was a chapter out of Slap Shot. But I had a party at my house, and all the tough guys like Jon Mirasty and Derek Dorsett and Tom Sestito were all making fun of me, 'Oh, you got a rabbit, what's that about?' Before the end of the night, Mirasty is cuddling with the rabbit and wrestling Dorsett because he wants to pet the rabbit.
"The toughest team in the league by far and these guys just loved that rabbit."
-- As I reported in Sunday's paper, the Houston Aeros are indeed going to charter into Minnesota to scrimmage the Wild on Monday and Wednesday. The players will be integrated into each team.
Wednesday's 7 p.m. scrimmage is free and open to the public, BUT as of now, ticket distribution has been suspended because demand was so high. The Wild is waiting to make sure all its season-ticket holders can get in.
Once that is determined, the Wild may again open tickets to the public. This is your first opportunity to see Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikael Granlund, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell in Wild sweaters.
The scrimmage will also be televised live on Fox Sports North at 7 p.m. with a pregame show at 6:30 p.m. The scrimmage will also be broadcast live on KFAN.
-- Like I said, please check out the Konopka story, and the notebook talks about the Wild's first day, from Mike Yeo's system work, to Pierre-Marc Bouchard looking good, to Wild's difficult travel this year (according to this blog, the most miles in the NHL) and how Ryan Suter and Zach Parise had trouble breaking old system habits today.
Marco Scandella is expected to get on the ice Monday for a twirl. He is sidelined by a groin injury and a few weeks away from returning.
Practice Monday is at 5 and scrimmage is at 6, so late news Monday. Like I said, please join the noon chat though.
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