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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Mikael Granlund returning tonight for the Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: December 22, 2013 - 4:50 PM

Mikael Granlund's much-anticipated return to the Wild's lineup will occur tonight against the New York Rangers and he will be reunited on the second line with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville to see, as coach Mike Yeo said, if they can "rekindle some of that spark they had going earlier on."

Zach Parise will play on the left side of Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle, while Matt Cooke will play on the left side of Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley.

Mike Rupp, scratched in the past six games, will play against the Rangers in his first return to the Garden since New York traded him to the Wild in February for Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri.

"He should be motivated," Yeo said.

Rupp will be centered by Erik Haula with Torrey Mitchell on right wing.

Zenon Konopka, Justin Fontaine and Nate Prosser are scratched.

Niklas Backstrom will start the first of maybe back-to-back games. Darcy Kuemper is indeed not coming to Philadelphia because he is hurt.

"I would like to see us play a really good game in front of him," Yeo said. "It would be nice if we could score a few more goals. The fact that we haven't been scoring goals, everything is more magnified right now, every mistake is magnified, and if we could ease a little bit of that pressure, we'd like to do that."

Granlund has missed 11 straight games and 13 of the past 14. In those 14 games, the Wild has scored 22 goals. It is not easy returning immediately from a concussion.

"We'll be realistic with our expectations, but I think there's no better way of getting right back in there than to throw him back into the fire," Yeo said.

Ice could be awful tonight: "That's kind of a trademark here," Yeo said. There was a women's basketball doubleheader here that ended at 4 p.m. The boards were just taken off and the Zamboni is roaming the surface as we speak. It's also unseasonably warm here in New York.

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