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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World Junior, Bussieres chatter; Aeros, Zucker, Granlund update; Spurgeon injured

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: December 3, 2012 - 12:33 PM

UPDATED WITH SPURGEON, WORLD JUNIOR INFORMATION

This morning, Hockey Canada will announce its preliminary roster for the world junior championships, which will be in Ufa, Russia, from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

On the preliminary roster of this eventual stacked team should include Wild draft picks Matt Dumba and Tyler Graovac. For much of the season, Graovac, an Ottawa 67s forward, was leading the Ontario Hockey League in goals. He now has 18 in 23 games, was playing hurt for much of the year and is now day-to-day with that injury. Dumba has 15 points in 28 games for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League.

Raphael Bussières, a second-rounder in 2012, is off to a great start with Baie-Comeau of the Quebec League, but he's considered a longshot to play for Canada. Bussières has 17 goals and 37 points (21st in the Q) in 29 games. He was named one of the Q's 3 Stars of the Month for November today. During his past 13 games, Bussières scored 10 goals, totalling 23 points. With three winning goals, he was one of the key elements of the team during their 15 consecutive winning streak in regulation time; equalling the 10 year-old team record. Bussières had a +11 during the last month and two points or more in six games. He also had an eight-game goal streak last month.

UPDATE: Dumba and Graovac made the preliminary roster, Bussieres did not. Here is the roster

Defending champion Sweden has released its roster, and obviously that does not include Jonas Brodin, who is sidelined indefinitely following surgery for a broken clavicle. Christoph Bertschy, drafted 158th overall by the Wild in June, should play for Switzerland. He plays for Bern in the Swiss League.

On Tuesday, the United States will announce its preliminary roster. With Mario Lucia back playing for Notre Dame after a preseason leg and ankle injury, Lucia should be on the roster. Lucia has four goals and an assist in six games for the 11-4 Irish. The freshman Lucia is coming off a 2-goal performance in a pounding of Lake Superior State, the school put on the map by Brian Rolston, Doug Weight, Jimmy Dowd, and ... Mike Greenlay.

The U.S. will be in a group with Canada, Russia, Germany and Slovakia and here is the world junior schedule for this year.

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The Houston Aeros are coming off a big two-game sweep over Oklahoma City and this came one game after beating Abbotsford. So that's two of the top teams in the AHL.

Houston is now fifth in the conference and has won five in a row since defeating Rockford in the Nov. 18 game at the X.

Former UMD national champ Justin Fontaine continues to be a stud for the Aeros. He is tied for 16th in the AHL with 19 points in 19 games. Jason Zucker is tied for fifth in the AHL with 11 goals and leads all rookie forwards. Zucker is tied for first in the AHL with six power-play goals. Brian Connelly is tied for 19th in the league with 12 assists. Matt Hackett is tied for fifth with eight wins.

Here is the Aeros' schedule, but they play at Texas on Friday and home against Peoria on Sunday. Mikael Granlund, injured Nov. 2, is expected to return this weekend from a sprained ankle that cost him 12 games. The Aeros are a very impressive 7-3-2 without Granlund and Brodin.

Also, sounds to me like Brett Bulmer will be out a bit with what I think is a sprained knee. Chad Rau is also out for awhile with a foot injury, while Carson McMillan is banged up with an upper body injury.

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Wild defensemen Jared Spurgeon has sustained an injury in Switzerland with the SCL Tigers and is on his way back to North America. I have emails into his agents and a text into Spurgeon, but as of now, I'm told it's a minor lower-body injury. If I get more details, I will update the blog.

Update: I talked with agent Eustace King. Spurgeon has touched down in Minneapolis. He will be examined by doctors here for a tweaked groin. They believe it's minor, but they want to make sure it's not something more substantial. If it's not and the lockout continues, he will likely eventually return to Switzerland.

This leaves only two Wild locked-out players playing elsewhere right now. Clayton Stoner left this past Thursday for Banska Bystrica in Slovakia and Devin Setoguchi is playing for the Ontario Reign in California of the East Coast Hockey League. He has seven points in five games.

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On Tuesday afternoon in New York, six owners and six players will meet face to face in an effort to gain traction and end this lockout. Commissioner Gary Bettman proposed the meeting last week when mediation failed without union or league leadership. But the NHLPA proposed a staff member from each side be involved, so now Bill Daly and Steve Fehr are expected to be in the room.

The owners will include: two members from the negotiating committee -- Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins and Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames -- four new owners -- Ronald Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The players should be announced today, so I'll update the blog later.

The Board of Governors meet in New York on Wednesday, and as I mentioned last week, it's time in my opinion for a drop-dead date to be established and announced.

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