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.
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It was just a matter of time before the Wild would have to make a roster shakeup after losing five in a row at home.
Rookies Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker, coming off a couple poor efforts, especially last night against Calgary, have been reassigned. Energy bugs Stephane Veilleux and Jake Dowell have been recalled to play the big, bad defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
The Wild has lacked physicality in recent games, focus at proper times, like getting the puck deep and not taking penalties on power plays (see Zucker and Granlund), and also defensive smarts in some key situations.
So Zucker, who was coming off a string of bad games, and Granlund take the hit. Zucker's turnovers have hurt the team since his last recall, and he probably destined himself for this when he bailed out of beating an icing last night. Granlund is just not ready -- plain, simple -- in my opinion.
Veilleux and Dowell are veterans, so they should do their jobs, keep it simple (hit people, get pucks deep and forecheck) and bring some of the elements missing from this team during absences to Mike Rupp and Zenon Konopka.
Desperate move for a desperate team. No matter the way the Wild decides to spin it today, this is a Code Blue move.
Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper have been flipped, too, as expected, and Harding has been activated off IR.
Here are the numbers on the players involved in the switches.
Dowell, the former Wisconsin Badger who has played in 154 NHL games, had four goals in 37 games with Houston. He's 28. Veilleux, 31, had three goals in 33 games with the Aeros. He has 460 NHL games under his belt.
Harding was 1-1 on his rehab assignment in Houston, stopping 56 of 61 shots. He played in four games for the Wild this season before symptoms related to multiple sclerosis sidelined him.
Kuemper was 1-2 for the Wild this season after posting a 1.88 goals-against average in 21 games with the Aeros.
Zucker has four goals in 19 games for the Wild, and had 24 in 55 games for the Aeros. Granlund had two goals in 27 games with the Wild and 10 in 29 games with the Aeros.
The Wild's in a crisis. This is a reaction to that. We will see if it works now.
Like I said last night, Wild goes 2-1 in its final three games, there should be a postseason.
More after availability at 11.
In his first start since Jan. 30 and first appearance since Feb. 7, Wild goalie Josh Harding stopped 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 Houston Aeros victory over the Texas Stars on Friday night. It was the first of what will likely be a two-game conditioning stint for Harding, who has been sidelined for nine weeks after complications with new medication to treat multiple sclerosis.
The win clinched a playoff spot for the Aeros. Matt Dumba, a 2012 first-round pick, made his pro debut for the Aeros. Harding is expected to be recalled Sunday. If all goes well, Darcy Kuemper will likely be reassigned for the Calder Cup playoffs.
I will be doing another Wild blog-submitted Q and A for Sunday's newspaper.
If you have any questions that you want considered for my Q and A, please leave them in the comment section of this blog OR you can LIKE www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso and leave questions in the comment field of the link to this blog.
One rule: Space is tight in the paper. So no long comments or War and Peace type questions. Just quick-hitting, brief questions please that you know can easily be answered in the paper. Read through the questions already submitted. If you see one that you were going to ask, try to come up with another.
In other Wild news, Mikael Granlund traveled with the team to San Jose. The team should learn after Thursday's morning skate whether or not Mike Rupp can play against the Sharks.
Granlund was reassigned to Houston on Tuesday only to be called back up on an emergency becasue Rupp was banged up. Granlund then scored against the Oilers, his first goal since Jan 19.
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