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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Sunday's open-to-public scrimmage will be Wild's first big chance to evaluate

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild training camp Updated: September 14, 2013 - 3:41 PM

Day 3 of training camp is in the books and the one thing that is very clear: this is a lot less frantic a pace as last January’s crash course, six- or seven-day camp.

Coach Mike Yeo can actually work the players at a measured, organized pace, not being forced to hit every facet of the Wild’s game daily and in an abbreviated fashion.

In Sunday’s newspaper, I wrote a feature on Jonas Brodin, who finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting last year (snubbed) and is poised to have a quality Year 2. Nobody seems to be worried about the proverbial sophomore slump, and if you’ve ever been around Brodin, it’s easy to see why.

Just a great player and seemingly unfazed by anything. He just makes it look so easy on the ice, and he says his goal this year is to add more points than the 11 he got in 45 games last season while not having that affect his defense. In a system that will ask more of the defensemen to jump into the play, the points should come easier. That, and just the natural coming out of his shell now that Brodin is a 20-year-old, uh, veteran.

I also wrote a notebook on Zenon Konopka, who played the role of TSN’s Bob McKenzie in Mexico over the Fourth of July. Several of Clayton Stoner’s teammates were down there for the defenseman’s destination wedding, and players stayed after for vacation. But it happened to be July 5 – the day of free agency. So for hours at the pool, Konopka informed teammates of all the trades and free-agent signings in the NHL. It was Konopka who let Devin Setoguchi know that he was now a Winnipeg Jet.

Yeo continued to be completely positive about everything he’s seeing after today’s practices. Day 3 is usually Hump Day, as longtime NHL coach Terry Murray calls it. Soreness sets in, legs get heavy and practice is often messy.

But Yeo was pleasantly surprised by today’s practices, which were open to the public as the ticket windows opened for the first time for single-game tickets.

On Sunday, the Wild will scrimmage at 11 a.m. Gate 1 opens at 10:45, and again, it’s free, open to you all, concessions will be open, tickets can be bought, etc., etc.

Yeo is looking at this like a real game, like the first real evaluation of players. There will be three periods, intermissions, and Yeo wants to see the first real sign of system work and good habits out on the ice. Now, the Wild has not yet worked on special teams. When we left the rink today, the coaching staff had not yet cemented how they’ll do the special teams in the scrimmage, but Yeo said it may be one-minute power plays. On Monday, the Wild will begin special teams work and have what Yeo’s been calling a special teams scrimmage.

That means we should get to see power-play consultant Andrew Brunette on the ice for the first time. So far, Bruno’s been in the stands behind the media. I know this because I heard his roaring laugh through my noise-canceling Bose headphones today!

Two lines that were shuffled today that will be seen Sunday? Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle were split, as were Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund. So Zucker will skate with Granlund and Justin Fontaine and that leaves a real big line of Niederreiter with Coyle and Dany Heatley.

Here are some Yeo-bits from today.

On tryout David Steckel, an NHL vet who is a faceoff specialist and penalty killer (if he doesn’t make the team and can’t latch on elsewhere, he will likely play for Kurt Kleinendorst in Iowa with the Wild’s AHL affiliate): “I’m more anxious to see him in a game, to be honest with you. I’ve always had a good feel for what kind of player he is and I just want to see how he integrates himself into our game and how he performs, and that’s a little bit more important for him. Now certainly what I am looking for is how quickly he’s picking things up and things that we want to do, and how he can go out and apply those in a game.”

On the defensemen competition, and Matt Dumba (the Wild will keep seven or eight, meaning if Dumba makes it and the Wild’s healthy, Yeo will have tough decision to make regarding the six he dresses. Defensemen on the depth chart are Ryan Suter, Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Keith Ballard, Stoner, Nate Prosser and Jonathon Blum): “Well, you always want competition. The one thing that I’ll say is our vets look good right now. But this is a kid that’s going to get a very good look in camp. When you have that kind of competition, it pushes everybody to be better or ultimately they end up passing somebody, it makes your team better. You’re only doing that because you feel that they can add something that you don’t have. Certainly that’s a guy that we’re keeping a close eye on. I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen from Blum. I’ve been happy with all the defensemen, from what I’ve seen, even the guys like [Steve] Kampfer and [Brian] Connelly and [Jon] Landry, names that aren’t getting mentioned, they’ve shown well so far.”

Who did Yeo mean when he said vets? “I think anybody who that with us last year -- and I'm including, he obviously wasn't with us last year but I'm including Ballard in that group -- I've seen a lot of good things from them. From everybody on the blueline. I can't sit here and say I've been disappointed with anybody.”

This year, the next wave of Wild prospects are turning pro, the very talented Tyler Graovac, Raphael Bussieres and Johan Gustafsson (maybe Kurtis Gabriel if the Wild decides to sign him and send him there). They will all start in Iowa. Here is Yeo on Graovac and Bussieres: “You can tell that they’re young and you can tell that this is a lot of information, but more importantly that this is a big step for them. You come from junior hockey and now you’re playing with the best of the best. It’s a big step, but they’re doing fine. The big thing that I’m looking from them, that I want to see, is No. 1 is work and really buying into the way that we do things here, showing that they can learn and improvement.”

On Niederreiter: “I'm anxious to watch that line play in the game tomorrow. It's a great combination of size and skill (with Coyle and Heatley). I've liked that he appears faster than for whatever reason I envisioned him. I like his first step, I like the way he goes to the net. His shot is silly hard. So I said this yesterday, but I've really liked a lot of things about his game -- I've really liked the way he plays positionally, I just want to see a little bit more puck touches. So hopefully this line gives him that opportunity.”

Why wasn't he getting that with Granlund:
“I don't know. It was only one day, so I'm not even judging that. That's not fair to Granny, that's not fair to Nino. Certainly one thing that I would like to see from [Niederreiter] is to be a real force in the offensive zone. So before I jump to any conclusions with him, I kind of want to see how he is on the boards, how he is protecting, shielding and escaping.”

More on Justin Fontaine: “I liked his first scrimmage and his day. I do like that he's asking questions. You can tell he's engaged and he wants to learn and he's a smart player. He's another guy that I'm certainly not going to rush any decision one way or the other. I've got a pretty open mind. You can tell, we're putting him with good players. We want to put certain players with certain players because we feel it gives them the best chance to show their game. And he's one of those guys. So we're putting him with [those] guys so that hopefully he can showcase his skill. Like I said, this is not going to be a one day or a two day evaluation for him.”


Detroit 6:00 PM
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Toronto 6:30 PM
New York
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Buffalo 2:00 PM
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Toronto 6:00 PM
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San Jose
Kennesaw St 43 2nd Half 12:04
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American Univ 5
NC State 11 1st Half 11:05
Boston College 17
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UCF 17
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Colgate 20
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Florida State 5
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Georgia 20
Army 11 1st Half 15:44
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North Carolina 1:00 PM
Wagner 1:00 PM
Mount St Marys
TCU 1:00 PM
Delaware 1:00 PM
Cincinnati 1:00 PM
Dayton 1:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Northern Iowa 1:00 PM
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Drexel 1:00 PM
William & Mary
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Green Bay
Villanova 1:00 PM
Campbell 1:00 PM
Sarah Lawrence 1:30 PM
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UNC-Asheville 2:00 PM
Southern Utah 2:00 PM
North Dakota
Utah Valley U 2:05 PM
Chicago State
ULM 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Bowling Green 2:30 PM
Long Island 2:30 PM
Sacred Heart
West Virginia 3:00 PM
Holy Cross 3:00 PM
Boston Univ
MD-Eastern Shore 3:00 PM
Delaware State
Wofford 3:00 PM
Montana State 3:00 PM
Hofstra 3:00 PM
James Madison
Iowa State 3:00 PM
Kansas State
Arkansas 3:00 PM
Missouri State 3:00 PM
Fordham 3:00 PM
Nicholls 3:00 PM
McNeese State
East Tenn St 3:00 PM
Coppin State 3:00 PM
Morgan State
San Diego 3:00 PM
Gardner-Webb 3:00 PM
St Francis-PA 3:00 PM
Robert Morris
Duquesne 3:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Creighton 3:00 PM
Seton Hall
Oklahoma State 3:00 PM
Texas Tech
Alabama 3:00 PM
Virginia Tech 3:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman 3:00 PM
NC Central
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Drake 3:05 PM
Southern Ill
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Char Southern
Central Conn St 3:30 PM
Eastern Mich 3:30 PM
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Texas 4:00 PM
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UNC Greensboro
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South Dakota St 4:00 PM
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Georgia State 4:15 PM
Old Dominion 4:30 PM
North Texas
Arkansas State 4:30 PM
Texas State
Texas Southern 5:00 PM
Alabama State
Tennessee St 5:00 PM
Princeton 5:00 PM
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Tennessee 5:00 PM
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Morehead State
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Florida A&M 5:00 PM
Iowa 5:00 PM
Penn State
Loyola Marymount 5:00 PM
Miss State 5:00 PM
South Carolina
Savannah State 5:00 PM
SC State
Miss Valley St 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Southern U
Prairie View 6:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Harvard 6:00 PM
George Washington 6:00 PM
Syracuse 6:00 PM
Tenn Tech 6:00 PM
Eastern Ky
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
Stony Brook 6:00 PM
Hampton 6:00 PM
Northwestern 6:00 PM
Western Ill 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Kent State
Incarnate Word 6:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton 6:00 PM
Long Beach State
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Richmond 6:00 PM
Saint Josephs
George Mason 6:00 PM
Saint Louis
Austin Peay 6:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Murray State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
Ball State 6:00 PM
Penn 6:00 PM
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Stetson 6:00 PM
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USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Grand Canyon 6:05 PM
Abilene Christian 6:15 PM
New Orleans
Northeastern 7:00 PM
Coll of Charleston
Tulsa 7:00 PM
Wyoming 7:00 PM
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Denver 7:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Boise State 7:00 PM
San Diego St
St Marys-CA 7:00 PM
Santa Clara
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
Southern Miss
Sam Houston St 7:00 PM
New Mexico St 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
FIU 7:00 PM
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Stephen F Austin 7:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Ga Southern 7:15 PM
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Grambling St 7:30 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Auburn 7:30 PM
Texas A&M
Arizona 8:00 PM
Northern Ariz 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
UC Davis 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
New Mexico 9:00 PM
Fresno State
BYU 9:00 PM
Pacific 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Idaho State 9:00 PM
Weber State
Sacramento St 9:05 PM
Portland State
UC Riverside 9:30 PM
Washington 9:30 PM
CS-Bakersfield 9:30 PM
UC Irvine 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Michigan 17 1st Half 10:40
Illinois 14
Lipscomb 11 1st Half 9:52
Kennesaw St 18
North Florida 12:00 PM
Samford 12:00 PM
Liberty 12:00 PM
North Texas 12:00 PM
Old Dominion
St Francis-NY 12:00 PM
St Francis-PA 12:00 PM
Robert Morris
Long Island 12:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Sam Houston St 12:00 PM
Kent State 12:00 PM
ULM 12:00 PM
Appalachian St
Boston U 12:05 PM
Holy Cross
Nicholls 12:15 PM
McNeese State
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State 1:00 PM
Western Mich
MD-Eastern Shore 1:00 PM
Delaware State
Northern Ill 1:00 PM
Eastern Michigan
Bowling Green 1:00 PM
Ohio U
Central Michigan 1:00 PM
Coppin State 1:00 PM
Morgan State
Bethune-Cookman 1:00 PM
NC Central
Central Conn St 1:00 PM
Fairleigh Dickinson
Memphis 1:00 PM
(1) Connecticut
Georgia Tech 1:00 PM
Wake Forest
East Carolina 1:00 PM
Marist 1:00 PM
Michigan State 1:00 PM
Fairfield 1:00 PM
Niagara 1:00 PM
East Tenn St 1:00 PM
(18) Chattanooga
Furman 1:00 PM
Longwood 1:00 PM
Charleston Southern
UNC-Asheville 1:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Northern Ky 1:00 PM
USC Upstate
Winthrop 1:00 PM
Western Ill 1:30 PM
South Dakota
Detroit 1:35 PM
Cleveland State 2:00 PM
Lafayette 2:00 PM
Arkansas State 2:00 PM
Texas State
Georgia State 2:00 PM
Portland State 2:00 PM
Sacramento St
South Dakota St
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
Eastern Illinois 2:00 PM
Jacksonville St 2:00 PM
Morehead St
Kansas State 2:00 PM
Cincinnati 2:00 PM
SE Louisiana 2:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Denver 2:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Tulane 2:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne 2:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Air Force 3:00 PM
Utah State
San Diego State 3:00 PM
Boise State
Fresno State 3:00 PM
New Mexico
Florida A&M 3:00 PM
Gonzaga 3:00 PM
South Florida 3:00 PM
UCLA 3:00 PM
(3) Baylor 3:00 PM
Iowa State
Miss Valley St 3:00 PM
Jackson State
Tenn Tech 3:00 PM
Eastern Kentucky
UMKC 3:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Seattle 3:00 PM
Texas Southern 3:00 PM
Alabama State
Santa Clara 3:00 PM
St Marys-CA
UNLV 3:00 PM
Savannah State 3:00 PM
SC State
Alcorn State 3:00 PM
Southern U
Bucknell 3:00 PM
American Univ
Oakland 3:00 PM
Eastern Washington 3:00 PM
Idaho 3:00 PM
Montana State
Weber State 3:00 PM
Idaho State
Radford 3:00 PM
High Point
Green Bay 3:30 PM
Youngstown St
Austin Peay 3:30 PM
SE Missouri St
Wagner 3:30 PM
Mount St Marys
Portland 4:00 PM
San Diego
Nevada 4:00 PM
San Jose St
Stephen F Austin 4:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Incarnate Word 4:00 PM
Abilene Christian 4:00 PM
New Orleans
Pepperdine 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Francisco 4:00 PM
Prairie View 4:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Hampton 4:00 PM
Chicago State 4:00 PM
Utah Valley U
Murray State 4:00 PM
UT Martin
Cal Poly 4:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara 4:00 PM
UC Davis
Marshall 4:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
UAB 5:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Georgia Southern 5:00 PM
Grambling 5:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Cornell 5:00 PM
Columbia 5:00 PM
Brown 5:00 PM
(14) Princeton
USC 5:00 PM
Washington St
(24) California 5:00 PM
(7) Oregon State
Yale 6:00 PM
Loyola-Maryland 6:00 PM
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
(21) Fla Gulf Coast
Long Beach St 6:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Rice 6:00 PM
Colgate 6:30 PM
CS-Northridge 7:00 PM
Kansas 7:00 PM
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
North Dakota 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northern Colorado 9:00 PM
Northern Ariz


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