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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Wild signs Gophers leading scorer Erik Haula; Lineup update vs. Blue Jackets

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: April 7, 2013 - 1:02 PM

As expected, the Wild has signed Gophers center Erik Haula, who led the U in scoring the past two seasons, to a two-year entry-level deal. He signed an amateur tryout and will immediately report to Houston, where he is eligible to play in the Calder Cup playoffs.

He is expected to make his debut Wednesday against Oklahoma City.

Haula's contract is the max for a 2009 pick, I understand, with max A bonuses. Not bad for a 2009 seventh-rounder.

"My dream has always been to have a chance to play in the big leagues and this is the start," Haula said by phone after flying to Houston. "I’ve worked hard for it and I’m really excited to get started with a great organization."

Here is a feature I wrote on Haula, the Finnesotan, in November.

The product of Shattuck-St. Mary's recorded Minnesota's first 50-point season since 2005-06. He hit the 100-point plateau this past season and ranks 49th on the Gophers' all-time list.

He was the first Gopher since Ryan Potulny (2003-06) to finish his collegiate career with an average of more than a point a game.

"It was tough to leave," Haula said. "Being with the same guys for three years, it’s not easy to leave. We’ve had pretty good success lately and to not get to that last game of the year this year was really disappointing, so that made the leaving part harder. But it’s time to take the next step and I was happy to get the support from my coaches and teammates."

Haula said he knows he has to learn to play against men and he hopes to take everything in to set himself up for training camp next year. He said he talked to buddy and fellow Finn Mikael Granlund about coming to Houston the other day and the next day he was called up by the Wild.

Haula, 22, ranked second in the NCAA in assists (35) and tied for fourth in scoring (51 points) and was named to the 2012-13 All-WCHA Second Team and the All-WCHA Academic Team. Haula led Minnesota and ranked ninth in the nation in scoring with 49 points (20-29=49) in 43 games in 2011-12 to help the Gophers advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. He tallied 24 points (6-18=24) in 34 games during his freshman season and ranked tied for first on the team in assists and third in scoring.

The Wild, now four points up on surging and ninth-place Phoenix, has a huge game tonight against Columbus. Marian Gaborik will make his home debut. Brandon Dubinsky and Nikita Nikitin are game-time decisions for the Blue Jackets.

Gaborik said in New York, "One team wants you, one team maybe tries to go in a different direction. I told myself this was a new, fresh start, new challenge. Young team, a lot of potential for the future, so I'm glad I made the decision."

The Blue Jackets, 11-3-5 in their past 19 and 9-0-3 in their past 12 at home, have been running hot. The Wild has not and badly needs a victory to stop the bleeding, or things will get real tense.

"They're a desperate team right now, too, based on where they sit in the standings and just kind of the way it's gone for them lately," former Wild coach Todd Richards said. "They were a hot team and have lost some games here in a row, so you know they're going to be ready to go."

Richard said the special feelings of playing the Wild have "worn off."

Niklas Backstrom vs. redhot Sergei Bobrovsky and his gigantic pads tonight.

For the Wild, veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert, whose play has dipped like a few defensemen, will be scratched for what he says is the first time in his career. He says he has to get back to simplicity.

Coach Mike Yeo said, "Hopefully this is something that spurs him to get it back. A lot of it is mental. I don't think we have to get too much into it. I'm not saying that he's been awful or he's the reason that we lost three games, but I think it was time to make a change. Hopefully this helps him get back on track."

Gilbert is a minus-13, tied for 269th out of 275 NHL defensemen, and plainly has been playing badly.

I know fans are clamoring for Clayton Stoner to be scratched, but my sense is Yeo does not feel comfortable giving Justin Falk, Nate Prosser or Brett Clark top-4 minutes. And that is simply the decidling factor. If Stoner sits, somebody has to go into that slot.

Plain, simple. I don't know a better way to explain it. I get your frustration. Stoner has struggled bigtime lately. But this is one of those occasions where the Wild needs to work with him and badly needs for him to improve his play. Taking him out is not simple if you don't have somebody to take that top-4 spot.

Clark sits tonight, too. Falk and Prosser are in.

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville

P-M Bouchard-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi

Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Charlie Coyle

Mike Rupp-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

The Wild hopes to get veteran Matt Cullen back soon. He is expected to see the doctor tomorrow, but since he hasn't practiced in awhile, we'll see how soon he can get back in the lineup even if he's cleared.

I am not as confident that we'll be seeing Dany Heatley any time soon.

By the way, I will be hosting a live chat on startribune.com on Monday at 2 p.m. CT.

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Los Angeles 7 Bottom 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 3
Detroit 3 Top 9th Inning
Kansas City 2
Philadelphia 0 Top 1st Inning
Oakland 0
Toronto 0 Top 1st Inning
NY Yankees 0
Arizona - T. Cahill 3:10 PM
Colorado - E. Butler
Boston - R. De La Rosa 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Milwaukee - M. Garza 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Washington - J. Zimmermann 6:10 PM
Miami - J. Cosart
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Minnesota - T. May
Seattle - C. Young 6:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
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Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL 0:00
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 4th Qtr 1:00
Duke 47
Marshall 31 3rd Qtr
Akron 3
Hawaii 9 3rd Qtr 9:38
Colorado 21
Louisville 0 Delayed 15:00
FIU 0
North Carolina 10 1st Qtr 5:25
East Carolina 7
Army 0 1st Qtr 1:30
Wake Forest 7
Virginia 7 1st Qtr 0:33
(21) BYU 3
(6) Texas A&M 10 1st Qtr 5:12
SMU 0
Rutgers 0 1st Qtr 5:00
Navy 7
Central Mich 0 1st Qtr 3:46
Kansas 7
Utah 3 1st Qtr 1:03
Michigan 3
Florida 7 1st Qtr 10:05
(3) Alabama 7
Fla Atlantic 0 1st Qtr 14:15
Wyoming 0
Indiana 0 1st Qtr 11:38
(18) Missouri 0
San Jose St 0 1st Qtr 12:31
Minnesota 3
Texas State 0 1st Qtr 14:44
Illinois 6
Massachusetts 0 1st Qtr 11:47
Penn State 0
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
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Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 4:00 PM
Portland
Houston 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
New England 6:30 PM
Columbus
San Jose 6:30 PM
Montreal
Seattle 6:30 PM
Red Bull New York
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Chicago
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
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Montreal
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