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.

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Minus injured Warning, Gophers heading to the Last Frontier

Posted by: Michael Russo under Gophers, Wild off-season news Updated: November 7, 2012 - 9:39 PM

UPDATED

As the NHL and NHLPA prepared to meet in now-snowy, windy New York for a critical meeting that includes Wild owner Craig Leipold, I ran into a number of antsy locked-out NHLers outside Mariucci Arena this afternoon.

The players have been skating there for awhile, and it’s starting to get “painful” and “this is getting ridiculous already” and “man, I’ve got my fingers crossed” regarding the meetings in New York. Today is the third meeting in five days and supposed to be about the important “Make Whole” part of the owners’ Oct. 16 proposal.
 
Hopefully we hear from the sides later today, but as I’ve said, we’re at that point where no news is good news or the less said, the better things are going. If they’re going to get in front of banners for press scrums again, I’m not confident things are going as well as we had hoped.
 
Today’s meeting that was supposed to start at 1 p.m. ET didn’t start until about 3:30 because the union was running late. Official reason was internal preparation.
 
The meeting ended just before 9 p.m. ET tonight, meaning they've met for almost 13 hours the last two days. They are scheduled to meet again Thursday. No availability, which as I mentioned above, I think is a good sign.
 
NHL's Bill Daly: "The National Hockey League's negotiating committee met with representatives of the National Hockey League Players' Association for approximately 5-1/2 hours today. Meetings are scheduled to resume tomorrow. We do not intend to comment on the substance or subject matter of today's negotiations."
 
NHLPA's Don Fehr: “The NHLPA and the NHL met today to discuss many of the key issues. We look forward to resuming talks tomorrow.”

Revenue sharing and "Make Whole" were the topics of discussion today. If there's been progress, trust me, it's gradual and will continue to be. This is a process. Clearly, Dec. 1 start would be the hope if they can come to an agreement.

Inside Mariucci, the Gophers practiced in preparation for this weekend’s series at Alaska Anchorage. The Gophers split last weekend vs. Minnesota State Mankato, and coach Don Lucia hasn’t been happy with a “disjointed” team lacking “rhythm” in their game.
 
They’ve had some good, intense practices this weekend, Lucia said, in an effort to fix everything, and I’ll have more about that in Friday’s paper.
 
Left wing Sam Warning couldn’t get through practice yesterday, Lucia said, meaning he will miss both games Friday and Saturday (10 p.m. starts, no TV, 1500-AM) and his third and fourth.
 
He is still week to week, and Lucia said they’ll evaluate him next week to see whether he’s a possibility against Wisconsin or maybe they’ll need to shut him down. The injury is undisclosed right now.
 
Lucia said he didn’t have a goaltending decision for this weekend yet (“We’ve got two of them. No change there,” he cracked), but he was pleased with Adam Wilcox last weekend. So again, just like last weekend, my guess is Wilcox starts Friday, and if he’s good/isn’t peppered, he starts Saturday.
 
Lucia said there’s a good possibility on Friday that the Gophers play 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Ben Marshall, who has been playing forward since Warning got hurt, will move back to the blue line, and Lucia said most likely Tom Serratore will move up in lines.
 
The Gophers, because of Delta flight schedule changes, won’t leave town until 5:30 p.m. Thursday, meaning they won’t get in until 8:30 p.m. local time in Anchorage (11:30 CT) and won’t get to the hotel until roughly 10 p.m. (1 a.m.).
 
Lucia says no excuses.
 
“Students like to sleep ‘til noon, so maybe 9 o’clock will be about perfect for them when they get up,” Lucia said kiddingly. “Routine is the same once you get in as long as you don’t have any delays. If you want to be a big boy and go play at the next level, you get in at 2 or 3 in the morning and go play that night. So I don’t want to hear anything about tough trip.”
 
On Alaska Anchorage, who is 2-2-2 and didn’t play last weekend, Lucia said after watching the North Dakota series Oct. 26-27, “I was really surprised how aggressive they were playing. In the past for a long time, they played a left-wing lock. … I saw much more pressure hockey. For them, they didn’t play this weekend, so we’ll see a rested team, we’ll see an aggressive team and it should be a great series.”
 
Travis Boyd on the Gophers: “We’re happy with where we’re at, but we also know we need to get a lot better still. Our record’s one thing – 5-2, which is good, it’s a good start for us, but as far as how we’re playing goes, we still have a long ways to go and still a lot more things to get better at. We’re working on those things now and just trying to straighten everything out so once we get into the meat of our schedule, we’re good to go.”
 
On the Seawolves’ young D corps (five underclassmen), Boyd said, “We’re definitely going to have to look to exploit them right away, just like Michigan State [opening weekend]. They had a really young D corps and I thought we did a great job of jumping on them. We’re going to have to make sure we get out there and get the puck deep and really work to possess a good forecheck.”
 
Nate Schmidt on the Alaska trip: “It’ll be a good, little bonding trip for us. It’s a nice time to get away and just be around the guys for a weekend. The most important thing is creating a bond, creating that chemistry that we had last year.”
 
On Alaska Anchorage, Schmidt said, “Coach talked about how they’re a different team, they’ve got some better players up front, they’ve got some guys that can wheel and deal and make offensive plays. They’re not going to sit back and wait for you to make your mistakes. It’s going to be an exciting weekend. They could have went into NoDak and beat them on Saturday night, they gave up a late goal (finished in a tie Oct. 27). They’re not a team to take lightly.”
 
Lucia, who met his wife, Joyce, while coaching at Alaska Fairbanks, was an assistant for two years at Anchorage from 1985-87. His in-laws, whom he has said are like second parents to him, left this morning for Arizona: “I don’t know where the love is,” but he joked he now won’t have to pull out his credit card this weekend.
 
“It’ll be the last trip for awhile. I think we’ll be going back up there down the line to play in a preseason tournament, but for me, I always enjoy the trip. It’s a good place to play. This time of year, you’ve got a good amount of daylight. It’s not like you’re up there in December and January.”
 
That's it for now. I may be back later with updates from today's NHL and NHLPA meeting. Otherwise, please read the Gophers story in Friday's paper.

 

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