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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

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Wild looks forward to a big week

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 20, 2013 - 2:43 PM
The Wild had a focused, energetic practice this morning in Mendota Heights and looked focused for a huge week.
 
With four games left in the regular season, the Wild’s still in a good spot to end its four-year postseason drought. That starts Sunday at 5 p.m. when the Wild opens a three-game homestand against Calgary. Los Angeles and Edmonton comes in next before the Wild ends the regular season in Denver on Saturday.
 
The NHL playoffs open next Tuesday.
 
“We’re in a spot where we know we have to play well and if we do, we’re going to get rewarded and be going in on a high,” said Zach Parise. “Throw out the San Jose game and if we play like we did in Edmonton and Calgary, we’ll be OK. It’s an exciting spot to be in for us.”
 
One area where I think the Wild can improve upon is physically. Things ramp up in the playoffs.
 
“You know me. I like physical hockey,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I like going in straight lines and finishing checks. This time of year that should be everybody. We’re coming home and we should be playing a hard game [Sunday] and we expect everybody to do that.”
 
Besides making the playoffs, this week should be about continuing to build its game for Minnesota.
 
“We’ve got to show up,” Devin Setoguchi said. “We have to show up every day and play the right way. If you get into the playoffs and you’re not quite there yet, then you don’t know what your game is. We need to build our game more and more and more so when the playoffs come, you’re ready to go.”
 
Check out Sunday’s newspaper for a heckuva lot more, including the Russo’s Rants/Facebook (www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso) Q&A.
 
Couple odds and ends:
 
--Got a couple tweets asking if there’s a chance we see Mikael vs. Markus Granlund on Sunday because the Flames signed the younger Granlund bro on Friday. Markus Granlund is still playing in Finland.
 
--Mike Rupp didn’t practice today. He did skate before and is questionable to play vs. the Flames. Zenon Konopka didn’t practice.
 
--Charlie Coyle, who had his upper front teeth chipped by Flames defenseman Mark Giordano last Monday, is in a dentist’s chair right now. Root canal, maybe. Ugh.
 
--Josh Harding is expected to make his second conditioning start Sunday at Oklahoma City. He made 33 saves in Houston’s 4-3 win at Texas on Friday night to help the Aeros clinch a playoff spot. After Sunday’s Aeros game, Harding is expected to be recalled and Darcy Kuemper will likely return to Houston for the Calder Cup playoffs. Just conjecture, but I’m betting Harding gets a start this week, especially if the Wild clinches. That could be Saturday at Colorado?
 
--Matt Dumba made his pro debut last night. He looked tough, kept up with the faster pace and you know he impressed coach John Torchetti by scrapping after a teammate was hit with a cheap shot.
 
Rachel Blount is covering Sunday’s game, so she’ll blog after the morning meeting (no skate with the early game). I will be at the game, will tweet throughout and likely blog afterward.

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