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.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Wild excited about first home playoff game in 5 years; Veilleux on way?

Posted by: Michael Russo under Stanley Cup, Wild practice Updated: May 4, 2013 - 5:30 PM
With his team fresh off a 5-2 beating in Chicago and down 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarters, Wild coach Mike Yeo kept things status quo in practice today.
 
I’d still be surprised if things are completely status quo in Game 3.
 
Whether that means fiddling with line combinations (splitting Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu for the first time this year?) or calling up reinforcements from its minor-league affiliate, we will have to see.
 
The Houston Aeros do play a deciding Game 5 tonight in Grand Rapids. Perhaps a couple players rush up here from Michigan on Sunday morning (a Mikael Granlund or a Justin Fontaine maybe?) or maybe tonight (Stephane Veilleux?).
 
Veilleux makes sense. Mike Rupp just looks to be immobilized by his banged-up knee and the Wild could use more speed and banging. I thought Zenon Konopka played a real good Game 1, but maybe the Wild looks to change up  a few of the fourth-line forwards. We shall see. Torrey Mitchell can move to center if Veilleux slotted in and Rupp did play.
 
Of course, the Wild has recalled Veilleux twice in recent weeks and didn't play him either time.
 
On line changes, Yeo today simply said “maybe.”
 
After last night’s game, Yeo said he already had a good idea of changes he wanted to make. He said he was more talking about the Wild’s game and adjustments he wanted to make. But obviously, in the playoffs, he couldn’t want to tip his hand to the Chicago Blackhawks, so he admitted he wanted to be intentionally vague today.
 
“The bottom line is we have identified some things and we’ve discussed them and we’ve worked on some things and we’re just real excited to come back and play again [Sunday].”
 
Niklas Backstrom practiced today, along with Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper. Yeo joked that he would decide the goalie “some time before the game.” I quoted Backstrom in Saturday’s paper, but he didn’t sound like a guy that’s able to immediately jump back into the crease yet though.
 
Jason Pominville, who has practiced once in two weeks and we know that didn’t go well, didn’t practice today, nor did Clayton Stoner.
 
On the loss of Pominville, Yeo said, “I wish we had him in the lineup for sure. He’s a good player for us -- especially his experience, his leadership -- but we’ve got enough in the lineup.”
 
Sunday at 2 p.m. (NBC exclusive on TV, KFAN on radio and Fox Sports North on the postgame show) is the first home playoff game in five years. The Wild finished the year 1-5-1 in its past seven at home and last time it was in this arena was the 6-1 whipping against Edmonton – the one that forced Minnesota to have to win in Denver to make the playoffs and the one that cost Minnesota the opportunity to face Vancouver, down 2-0 to San Jose, in the first round instead of Chicago.
 
Will the fans be excited or equally ready to jump on the Wild at first sign of trouble?
 
“I think this place is going to be rocking [Sunday] and we’re excited for that,” Yeo said. “We wish that it was a different scenario, instead of coming back down 2-0. But the reality is we’re going into tomorrow’s game with the opportunity to play a first home game in five years and we should be excited about that. Just because we’re down 2-0, it doesn’t mean that this series is over. I myself have been a part of series where we’ve come back from being down 2-0 (both in the minors and twice in Pittsburgh when the Pens won the Cup in 2009) and I know there are other people [in the locker room] that have as well. But certainly the importance of [Sunday’s] game probably doesn’t need to be discussed a whole lot.”
 
(Editor’s note: Pens had a few more gamebreakers than the Wild).
 
I asked Yeo if he would consider splitting Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise (no goals): “We’ll consider everything. If we think that that’s what we need, then that’s something that we would be willing to do for sure. Again, we’re coming home. It’s a little bit of a different situation now. The first game was a good game, so I think because we played one game that wasn’t good, I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel here either.”
 
At home, Yeo will get last change, which means if he wants to avoid the Parise-Koivu head-to-head match vs. Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, he would have an easier ability to do so. But Yeo noted that in Game 2, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t overly concerned with matchups and he threw out a number of lines against Parise and Koivu.
 
Parise pointed out to me that Hossa and Toews and Brandon Saad haven’t scored 5-on-5 either. If it’s because the Wild’s top line is doing a good job neutralizing them, the danger of avoiding that matchup then becomes that maybe Hossa and Toews light up the Wild.
 
This is why playing Chicago is so problematic. The Hawks have tons of weapons. The Wild does not.
 
On the potential of splitting Koivu and Parise, Parise said, “Two ways you can look at it. I think we’ve gotten some good opportunities. We haven’t given one up to Toews’ line either 5-on-5. Unfortunately they’re the ones that are up 2-nothing. So you look at our line and we haven’t scored yet. On the flip side the line we’re playing against haven’t scored either. But that’s obviously not good enough. So we’ve got to find a way. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, we’ve got to find a way to get some offense. I think we’re playing good away from the puck in limiting their chances when we are out against Toews’ line, but we have to do a better job protecting the puck and getting some zone time and capitalizing. We have to capitalize on our chances.”
Parise said, “There’s always a way [to beat a better team]. I think this game right now is about taking advantage of weaknesses and I think we have to do a better job of exploiting some different things that they do and that they do well, we have to do some things to counter them. And I don’t think we did a good enough job of that from game 1 to game 2.”
For instance, in Game 1, the Wild did a great job gapping up at the blue line and continually poke-checking pucks and breaking up entries by Chicago. The Hawks seemed to adjust with stretch passes last night to get pucks behind the Wild D.
“Yeah, I did notice that,” Parise said. “I did notice that they started to do that a little more and they were able to hop behind our D. I think that’s something that we’ll have to at least be aware of.”
That’s it for now. I will talk to you Sunday – or I will update the blog tonight if I become aware of possible callups.

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles 4 Top 1st Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Boston - A. Webster 6:05 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - J. Locke
Toronto - M. Buehrle 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - H. Kuroda
Washington - D. Fister 6:10 PM
Miami - T. Koehler
Chicago WSox - J. Quintana 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson
NY Mets - Z. Wheeler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - J. Teheran
Cleveland - T. Bauer 7:10 PM
Minnesota - P. Hughes
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Seattle - T. Walker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Arizona - C. Anderson 7:10 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Cincinnati - D. Holmberg 7:15 PM
St. Louis - J. Lackey
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 8:35 PM
Oakland - J. Lester
Texas - L. Bonilla 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
San Francisco - T. Hudson 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 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
Colorado 9:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
Toronto 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT