Long, solid practice down at the X this morning conducted by Todd Richards after Sunday's day off. Was a great working practice, and it ended with a bunch of laughs with an open-net, shoot-from-center contest.

Obviously, Wild need the work, going 1-5-2 in its past eight. I, by the way, haven't covered a win since Nov. 19 at Detroit (dramatic 4-3 OT win after Mikko Koivu's late equalizer and John Madden's OT goal) since Kent covered the Nashville game the day after Turkey Day.

Richards was in a great mood this morning, having a fun back and forth debate with the media ... about the media and its role and the way it reports stories. 

Richards was good on a bunch of subjects today, some I'm holding, some I'm reporting for tomorrow. Richards was good talking about his job security today, which is tomorrow's story.

The most interesting stuff I felt was about frustrated Mikko Koivu and his play, which I'm actually going to write about for Wednesday. I got some great stuff from Todd today and from others about Koivu, who is struggling. The line has also spent a lot of time lately looking at video of its current shifts and its shifts when it was running well.

The line played very well against Dallas, and twice turned the momentum back the Wild's direction. Again, more on this Wednesday. I've got to keep you fine folks actually reading the paper, too.  Speaking of the paper, really funny Sunday column coming up (as of now) on Twitter's BizNasty2point0, Phoenix's Paul Bissonnette. He's buds with Cal Clutterbuck and I had a great sitdown with Biz the other day. He's a must-follow on Twitter.

Speaking of Sunday column, thanks for the nice notes I received regarding this past Sunday's column. If you didn't see it, here's my ode to Jim Kelley, a hockey writer who mentored and befriended many of us in the business.

As for the news:

-- We'll have to keep an eye on Brent Burns. Don't mean to be that cynical beat writer, but I'm now skeptical with the, "He's sick" stuff, especially on Burnzie, who's got the concussion history and was just head-butted by teammate Greg Zanon two games ago. Burns didn't practice today. They said he was sick and wanted to skate, but they told him to stay off the ice. But after, Richards said he also has a stiff neck from the Zanon hit.

Again maybe it's nothing serious. Maybe (actually probably) he is sick, too. But Burns was sick before his first concussion. Pierre-Marc Bouchard was "sick" all throughout last training camp. Antti Miettinen was recently sick before it was a concussion. I'll see it when I believe it -- ie: does Burns practice Tuesday or Wednesday? 

-- Justin Falk was sent down. Jared Spurgeon stays. That's got to be awkward, considering Spurgeon was a 16-year-old defense partner of Falk's in Spokane a few years back. Now Falk's scratched four games in a row for Spurgeon and sent to the minors. I thought it would be Spurgeon leaving, especially after Saturday, when I felt he was exposed for his lack of size a couple shifts vs. Dallas. But the Wild likes the way he's playing and he stays for now. Falk's game, the team feels, has fallen dramatically since that Atlanta game Nov. 11. That was the game Falk said, "I was terrible."

-- Clayton Stoner practiced today and felt good. He missed the past five games with an upper-body injury. He hasn't received clearance to return to game action, but Richards anticipates that if all goes well this week, he'll be on the trip to Phoenix and Los Angeles and Anaheim.

-- I'm going to Phoenix, Los Angeles and Anaheim this week. You're not. It's warmer there. And sunnier. Just thought I'd say that.

-- Please, no more emails about Pierre-Marc Bouchard to Rangers rumors. I don't know where this stuff comes from, but it's caught fire and it is laughable. PMB has 3 years left on his contract at 4.25, 4.3, 4.3. He's played 3 games after missing essentially 18 months with a head injury and suddenly teams are ready to trade for him?

Do me a favor, you people are smart hockey fans, when you read a rumor, think to yourself before anything, "Does this even make sense?" before believing it. On this one, you should have just chuckled and moved on.

--  Tomorrow, the U.S. team will announce its preliminary roster for the world junior championships, which begin later this month in Buffalo. Jason Zucker, one of the Wild's three second-rounders last year, should be on the prelim roster. Zucker is a freshman at DU, had a hat trick vs. UMD this past weekend, and is sixth in the nation with 12 goals (third in the WCHA). Also, 2010 first-rounder Mikael Granlund should make Finland's prelim roster, and maybe even the U's Erik Haula. Johan Larsson (2010 2nd-rounder) and Johan Gustafsson (2010 6th-rounder, goalie) made Sweden's roster already.

-- Speaking of Granlund, I asked Nik Backstrom if he has any updates on him. He suffered a concussion Oct. 14. After all, Backstrom owns a piece of Granlund's team, IFK in Helsinki. Backstrom said he's close to being back. He said he came back too early and was sidelined longer. Backstrom, part-time goalie, part-time media relations guy.

-- And part-time comedian. I showed Backstrom a picture of Derek Boogaard's Men's Journal photo shoot today. I wrote about it when Boogaard was in town, but now I've got the picture. It's a pic of Boogaard punching beef in a meat locker.

Backstrom, who loved to trade barbs with the Boogey Man, had this zinger: " For sure, he's not the smartest thing in there."

Boogaard, because I'm a tattle tail, did get a kick out of Backstrom's quote.

I was going to show you the picture, but I decided to play it safe and send an email first to see if I was allowed. Turns out we can publish it in the paper, but not online, so use your imagination or buy the December/January issue of Men's Journal. It was a great feature, except for the fact all my quotes weren't used! I passed along all the dirt I knew on Boogaard to the writer.

-- Wild players will swap their jerseys for aprons Monday night at Pazzaluna Urban Italian Restaurant in St. Paul from 6-9 p.m. They’ll wait on tables and mingle with guests to raise money for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

In its six year history, this event has raised over $600,000. A limited number of tables are still available. If you want to buy a table, you better hurry. Contact Rachel Schuldt at 651-602-5738.

I know my editor just got to the end of this and said, "Ah, can you please write for the actual paper, Russo, so I can go home!!!" I better go.

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Brent Burns: "I don't have head issues"