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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Zucker, Granlund motivated to replace Coyle; Parise leaves practice sick

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: October 7, 2013 - 2:28 PM

Zach Parise left Monday morning’s practice at St. Thomas Academy not feeling well, but the Wild left wing is on the team’s charter to Nashville and expected to play Tuesday night as the Wild and Predators both seek their first wins of the season.

Afternoon from way up in the sky.

If there’s any doubt Parise can play Tuesday, the Wild will need to call up a forward because it’s carrying the minimum 12. As of now, that hasn’t happened and the fact Parise is on the trip is a good sign.

Life begins Tuesday for maybe up to a month without second-line center Charlie Coyle, who sprained his knee midway through the second period in Saturday’s game against Anaheim.

Jason Zucker was recalled to fill that void and was expectedly on a line with Mikael Granlund in today’s practice. Granlund will assume Coyle’s second-line center position. Remember, Granlund was slotted as the second-line center to begin last season, but he proved not to be ready and was eventually replaced by veteran Matt Cullen for the rest of the season. Cullen started as his left wing.

Granlund said he feels he’s ready now. He and Zucker did have good chemistry during the lockout last year in Houston. As of now, Dany Heatley stays on that line, but it’s clear Heatley must pick up his play.

He has had a tough first couple games and this morning did video work with coach Mike Yeo.

Zucker says he learned his lesson after not making the Wild out of camp. But a week later, he’s back.

“I have to be better,” Zucker said. “I didn’t have a good enough camp and I take full blame for that and full responsibility. I have to be better. It’s the nhl. You can’t just come in and expect to be on a line or on the team. You’ve got to come and perform, and I didn’t do that.”

He also got hurt at the wrong time, and it’s clear he probably returned too soon and was playing while sore because he so badly wanted to make the team. Understandable.

Yeo said today the Wild has said over and over again how it feels it’s much deeper up front.

Without Coyle, Yeo said, “well, now is our chance to prove it.”

Nino Niederreiter moves to the third line with Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak. Remember, Yeo liked their game together in the win at Columbus in the preseason.

Clayton Stoner will be paired with Keith Ballard against the Predators. Matt Dumba sits. The Wild will clearly ease Dumba in as a rookie. Remember, a decision needs to be made before HE plays 10 games, not the team.

Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon remain intact. They had a nightmarish game against the Ducks, but Yeo says it’s too soon to make rash changes and it’s up to the coaches to help Scandella through these rough games.

Yeo was mum on Tuesday’s starting goalie, which makes me think Josh Harding makes his first start. We’ll see. Talk Tuesday or if the Wild calls up a forward as Parise insurance.

Without Parise in practice, Justin Fontaine moved up to the first line and Mike Rupp was fast tracked into fourth line duty. Rupp’s still a ways away, however.

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