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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Many nuggets as Wild looks for sixth consecutive win tonight; Backstrom honored

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 25, 2013 - 2:10 PM

The Wild visits the Dallas Stars tonight here at American Airline Center.

You know about the streak, so no need to rehash this story on the 16-game winless streak. Asked Zenon Konopka: "Is it true we haven't won here in 10 years? You've got to be kidding me."

I can't even convey to you how loose this locker room was this morning. I always say to people, I have never been in the Dallas visiting room before or after a game and dealt with a happy player. Complete opposite this morning. Players joking back and forth, shooting the breeze with writers, watching golf.

As I sit on a golf cart outside the locker room writing this, the only thing I hear right now is executive Andrew Brunette's loud laugh.

Just again, a different atmosphere around this confident team right now. The key is keeping the foot on the gas. Wild technically fell back to fourth last night because the Vancouver Canucks beat Colorado to take over first in the division. The Canucks have won four in a row but have played two more games than the Wild, so a Wild win tonight and Minnesota will leapfrog them. The Canucks though play teams outside the top-8 in the West the next TEN games.

Niklas Backstrom vs. Kari Lehtonen tonight. The Finns just keep starting for their respective teams.

Backstrom could be getting a day off Friday in Dallas or at home Saturday vs. Los Angeles. Matt Hackett, up since March 9 but caddying Backstrom the past eight games, was sent back to Houston to start one game. Sounds almost definitely like he will be recalled and get one of those two starts.

Coach Mike Yeo did say that if Backstrom is going to get Friday's game off as opposed to Saturday, there is some "logic" into not making Backstrom travel to Dallas on Friday and going with a Hackett-Darcy Kuemper duo. But Yeo said no decision has been made and he is only concentrating on tonight's game against the Brenden Morrow-less Stars.

The Stars captain was traded to Pittsburgh yesterday for stud defenseman Joe Morrow (no relation). Quiet Stars locker room today, and even though the writing was on the wall that he'd be dealt, a couple of guys I know real well in there said he will be sorely missed.

So could we see a jacked-up Stars team tonight or an emotionally distraight one?

Backstrom was honored today with Second Star of the Week in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin was First Star, Nazem Kadri was Third. Backstrom posted a 3-0-0 record, 1.00 goals-against average, .972 save percentage and one shutout in three starts to help the Wild extend its winning streak to a season-high five games. He made 35 saves in a 3-1 triumph at Vancouver March 18 to lead Minnesota to its first victory at Rogers Arena since Jan. 31, 2009 (0-9-2). Backstrom then recorded a season-high 36 stops in a 4-2 victory at Detroit March 20. He closed the week with 33 saves in a 2-0 win over San Jose March 23 to pick up the 27th shutout of his NHL career and his first since Feb. 19, 2012. The 35-year-old Helsinki native ranks second in the League with 16 wins this season and has a 2.23 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 25 appearances.

He was also named Third Star of the Week on March 4. He got shellacked March 5 in Chicago and pulled after one period. That also came after a Marian Hossa ceremony. If you know Backstrom, few goalies are more routine regimented. He does everything the same way every pregame. Afternoon games, other than the San Jose shutout, he's sometimes off (see last Colorado game). That entire ceremony in Chicago he was skating around his crease, messing with the ice. We've seen this before.

Guess what? Tonight, longtime Star Darryl Sydor, the Wild's assistant coach, will be honored during a pregame ceremony. GM Chuck Fletcher let Sydor's wife and four sons, all of whom were born in Dallas, on the team charter so they could attend the ceremony.

If you know Sydor, he's not comfortable with the limelight, so as cool as tonight is, you know he'll feel a bit queasy about the whole thing. You can hear from Sydor in tomorrow's paper. Yeo is excited for him. Immense amount of respect between Yeo and Sydor. Yeo coached Sydor in Pittsburgh and hired him as his assistant in Houston. When he got the Wild job, Yeo brought Sydor along for the ride as his lone addition to Rick Wilson, Darby Hendrickson and Bob Mason.

I'll write more about Jason Zucker's demotion -- for lack of a better term -- in tomorrow's paper. He simply has to play, the Wild says. For now, Pierre-Marc Bouchard has reestablished himself on the second line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. The Wild's won five in a row since that change took place. Zucker played the past three games on the fourth line. He averaged 9:03 of ice time and didn't have a single shot.

Just like Mikael Granlund and Marco Scandella, if he's not going to get significant minutes here, Fletcher believes he should get top-line minutes in Houston. Remember, Zucker hasn't played the power play in five weeks. Get him down to Houston, he'll feel the puck a lot, be good again and he'll be back up eventually. Fletcher said things change quickly in this game.

Mike Rupp returns tonight after missing three games with a lower body injury. Rupp insurance, Jake Dowell, won't play. Brett Clark continues to wait as well. Nate Prosser is out, too.

The Wild does have interest in hotshot Western Michigan defenseman Dan DeKeyser and is awaiting to hear if they can chat with him tomorrow. The Wild won't get him though. The Wild can't put him on the team right away. Same reason why Andrej Sustr didn't choose here. DeKeyser wants to play right away. Detroit's got the inside shot. He's from Detroit, grew up a Red Wings fan, had Red Wings everything all over his bedroom walls as a kid.

The Wild's just in a different stage as an organization. There was a time where the cupboard was bare and they had to sign Casey Wellman and Jarod Palmer and Nate Prosser and Justin Fontaine and Chad Rau and Chay Genoway, etc. There was a time where they went hard after guys like Stephane Da Costa. Now, there's just little room. They do have interest in college free agents still. DeKeyser. I'd think they'd get in on Nate Schmidt and Drew Leblanc when they're free. But Wild's not going to break the bank at this stage.

That's it for now. I'll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show tonight and the first intermission. Later.

OH, here were those "Last Time the Wild Won in Dallas" Twitter entries from last season. Maybe I'll use some tonight.

The last time the Wild won in Dallas, a silver-haired Sid Hartman was the beat writer.

last time the Wild won in Dallas Russo's Sunday notebook wasn't 75 lines overset?
Last tie the Wild won in Dallas Mike Yeo had a full head of hair. I asked Yeo this morning if this was true: "I was still in denial."
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, the Wild travelled by charter horse-drawn carriage.
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, the Petrified Forest was considered "A bunch of old logs"
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, the Grand Canyon was a minor valley.
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, "Ocean's Eleven" was an old Sinatra flick.
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, the Statue of Liberty hadn't yet turned green.
Last time Wild won in Dallas, Norm Green was more popular than Jerry Jones.
Last time the wild won in Dallas I was excited about becoming a home owner
Last time the WIld won in Dallas, Brent Burns only had one snake.
last time the wild won in dallas, the Thrashers were a thriving franchise.
Mike Yeo was taking his last HS psych test
"I cheered so hard I fell off my dinosaur
Fox was still broadcasting NHL Games with the "glow puck" and HD meant Heavy Duty!
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, Bartman could still live at home in anonymity.
Tom Reid still had dark hair.
I could fill my gas tank for $20... (It cost me $74 today...)
last time the Wild won in Dallas the metrodome was state of the art
wild had no first round busts drafted
Jerry Jones' face had feeling.
Matt Kassian was fighting in diapers...and winning!!!
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, wait, we've won in Dallas before?
Chris Simon was a viable trade deadline pick-up.
An errant slapshot flew off the grassy knoll to disastrous consequences.
Last time Wild won in Dallas, Wild fans had no idea who the Fla. Panthers were.
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, the Russo clan had just come from the Old Country to Long Island.
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, Russo didn't mention Florida in his blog
The national debt was only $10,547,778,943,202.50
We used to say Zid-licky. It wasn't Zidlitschkey.
the ice was cleaned by Frank Zamboni himself using his first prototype machine.
Clutterbuck couldn't grow a beard yet.
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, hockey skates were whale bones tied to your shoes
Last time the Wild won in Dallas, it was reported in the MInneapolis Tribune AND the Minneapolis Star.



Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 102 4th Qtr 4:26
Toronto 74
New York 84 4th Qtr 5:04
Detroit 86
Orlando 84 4th Qtr 1:42
Atlanta 88
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 62 3rd Qtr 3:49
Memphis 50
Brooklyn 71 3rd Qtr 1:19
Houston 72
Miami 74 3rd Qtr 2:14
New Orleans 67
Minnesota 63 3rd Qtr 2:32
Chicago 71
Utah 33 2nd Qtr 8:49
Denver 21
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 3rd Prd 10:31
Tampa Bay 3
Colorado 1 2nd Prd 10:05
Dallas 1
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 48 2nd Half 4:10
Akron 63
Dartmouth 60 2nd Half 7:30
Columbia 51
Valparaiso 9:00 PM
Cleveland State
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 56 2nd Half 3:50
Arizona 46
Southern Ill 52 2nd Half 13:12
Bradley 50
Drake 44 2nd Half 7:57
Wichita State 60
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 42 2nd Half 5:35
Loyola-Chicago 57
Northern Iowa 59 2nd Half 2:30
Missouri State 65
Utah 30 2nd Half 16:21
(10) Arizona State 20
Providence 37 2nd Half 12:48
Villanova 44


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