Good late afternoon from Helsinki, and good morning back in the Twin Cities. Just a beautiful day in Helsinki, where the Wild had an open practice in front of probably a few thousand Finnish fans this morning at Hartwall Areena, then took a bus tour of Helsinki, which was downright hysterical.
Before I continue:
1) For a lot of pictures from today's open practice where the three Finns got bombarded for autographs and for some funny pictures from today's bus tour, go to www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso
2) There should be a video up on startribune.com/wild later today from the open practices and tour, but I've uploaded some to my Twitter (www.twitter.com/russostrib). Here's a funny one. I think if you click on one video, you can get an archive to some of the others I've put up (check out the kids screaming for Koivu's autograph) and for yesterday's video, here's a link
Here are the article's in Sunday's paper:
First, from today's practice, as for the news:
1. Brent Burns practiced and should play in tomorrow's exhibition game on the big ice sheet at Tampere Ilves
2. Marek Zidlicky and Cam Barker should also be OK, while Guillaume Latendresse practiced today, and although he's unlikely to play tomorrow with the hip flexor, he is progressing and perhaps will be ready by the opener.
3. Not a shock, but coach Todd Richards said the plan is for Niklas Backstrom to start both games vs. Carolina. Remember, likely two cuts to come Wednesday barring injury because Anton Khudobin and Jose Theodore both will have to be on the roster, they say. At forward, it'd either be Matt Kassian or Casey Wellman. On D, it could be Drew Bagnall, or because Bagnall has looked so good in camp, would the Wild consider sending Clayton Stoner to the minors even though it would have to pay him $525,000 down there? We'll see, but I think Justin Falk makes the opening night roster.
Last night, I went to watch IFK, the partly-owned Niklas Backstrom Finnish Elite League team (I went with a comp ticket, which Backstrom was disappointed to hear), and starring in the game was 2010 Wild first-rounder Mikael Granlund. Granlund, in front of the Wild management, owner and coaches, scored a goal and three assists in an 11-3 win over Assat. The kid, after scoring nearly a point a game last year during a Rookie of the Year campaign, is second in the league in scoring this year with 10 points in 8 games. To put this in perspective, Mikko Koivu, in his fourth year in the league for TPS, scored a career-high 30 points.
This kid is lighting up a league full of mostly men.
Today, Granlund came to the Wild's practice to watch and signed autographs. The Wild brass with travel to watch him play Jyvaskyla on Tuesday, and Granlund may attend Friday's Wild at Carolina game (Wild's the visitor in Game 2).
I keep forgetting to tell you, Dennis Endras is coming in Wednesday to be the Wild's emergency goalie if something happens to Backstrom or Anton Khudobin.
Today's practice was a fun one. A thousand or 2,000 Finnish fans showed up to watch practice, and the kids fought for autographs from all the Wild players. But nobody was more popular the Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom and Antti Miettinen. The kids screamed their names, asked for sticks, snapped pictures. It was fun to see, and there are pictures on my facebook/startribunemikerusso page and may wind up on the web site later. Also, like I said, there's a few videos on Twitter and a video should be edited later.
Isak Rautio, 17; Rami Pennanen, 18
Then, we went on a bus tour of Helsinki, and it was to say the least, funny. First of the all, the guys were exhausted after having just practiced an hour before. And the tour guide took her tour very seriously. It started off with her making some awkward jokes about the Wild and "ice hockey," and it continued and continued.
She let us off one place, a rock church, and we were supposed to spend 15 minutes in there. We were back in 3 1/2. The second place we got off, only half the bus got off. Players fell asleep, and there were some funny lines. All in all, it was a fun look at a very beautiful city.
Schultz/Backstrom admiring a statue
2 FBI-looking dudes hired by the NHL to protect us from Finnish hoodlums
OK, I better write for the paper. I'm planning a cool Granlund story for Tuesday's paper, a feature on another player Wednesday and of course opening night advance for Thursday.
For Monday, a lot of notes and a story on the Finnish fans invading practice and the tour around Helsinki. For Tuesday, also coverage from the Tampere exhibition game. Remember, no TV or radio Monday, so my Twitter is the best place to be for game updates. The game starts at 11 a.m. CT.