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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Kuemper to start tonight vs. Kings; Dumba heading to WHL

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news Updated: January 7, 2014 - 3:33 PM

Darcy Kuemper will be making his second start of the season tonight for the Wild when it visits the Los Angeles Kings.

Niklas Backstrom is able to play, but has abdominal stiffness. Backstrom, during practice, spent extra time working with Andrew Brunette and goalie coach Bob Mason.

Backstrom didn’t practice yesterday because of what was termed maintenance by the Wild.

Coach Mike Yeo didn't reveal tonight’s starter. Backstrom was unavailable to the media, a Wild team policy on game days.

As you know, Josh Harding is on injured reserve. Kuemper, 23, the former Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year and Western Hockey League Player and Goalie of the Year, is 0-1 this season in two appearances. He has given up six goals on 16 shots for a .625 save percentage and 6.13 goals-against average. He was pulled in Toronto after allowing three goals on seven shots through 32:23.

But in the minors, he has gotten his game together. He, too, had been nursing an injury and wasn’t called up during the last Wild road trip because he was injured for Iowa.

For the Baby Wild, Kuemper is 7-10 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, which is second in the AHL.

He said the other day that he feels he has gotten his game together and was anxious to show it up here. He gets that chance tonight.

In other Wild news:

-- Matt Dumba has officially been loaned to Portland of the Western Hockey League for the rest of the season. This has been reported the past few days and was in today’s Harding notebook here.

-- With Mikko Koivu sidelined a month after ankle surgery, Dany Heatley will wear the third ‘A’ with Ryan Suter (permanent A) and Jason Pominville, who has been wearing an ‘A’ since Zach Parise went down. Parise, again, is expected to start skating later this week. He’ll miss his seventh game tonight with a broken foot.

-- The Wild’s top three centermen tonight – Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula – have combined for 137 games played in the NHL, and most of Coyle’s experience has been at right wing. The Kings’ top three centermen tonight – Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll – have combined for 1,863. This doesn’t count Jeff Carter, who can slide into center. He has played 597 games.

Wild’s lines again are:

Heatley-Coyle-Pominville

Niederreiter-Granlund-Zucker

Cooke-Haula-Fontaine

Veilleux-Brodziak-Mitchell

My guess is Brodziak will move up to the third line at some point.

D pairs

Suter-Brodin

Scandella-Prosser

Stoner-Ballard

Goalies

Mike Greenlay

Kevin Gorg

(At some point, probably)

If you won’t Olympics rosters, check out the previous blog.

Mikael Granlund on making Team Finland: “It’s such a great feeling to be there and have a chance to play for your country and have a chance to win something there. It’s a great honor. It’s always an honor to put that Team Finland jersey on.”

Jonas Brodin on not making Team Sweden and being an injury alternate: “We have some good D-men in Sweden. I can’t focus on that right now. It’s a gameday. They texted me one week ago. If someone gets injured, I’m ready to play.”

WILD GOALIE DRAMA

Here’s mostly a cut-and-paste a Jan. 2 blog, but:

Backstrom and Harding have been the Wild's tagteam for GM Chuck Fletcher's five years (Harding has missed much of two full seasons though, once with a torn ACL/MCL, once last year with MS complications).

But it is unbelievable how many times Harding and Backstrom have been sick or injured in that five-year timespan and unbelievable how many times the Wild has had to carry three goalies on its active roster because of it.

The Wild's goalie carousel annually is not a normal thing in the NHL. I mean, just look at last year's playoffs as the best example. Backstrom hurt in warmups, Harding hurt during Game 4, the will he start, won't he start, will he start, won't he start drama at the pregame skate in Game 5.

Here’s this year alone:

Oct. 8 in Nashville, Backstrom strains his knee.

Oct. 15 in Toronto, Kuemper gives up three goals on seven shots and Harding, whom the Wild wanted to give the game off because of his MS, has to come in and relieve him.

Oct. 24 against Carolina, Harding sustains muscle spasms in his leg and Backstrom, in his first game back from the knee injury, has to replace him after two periods and start consecutive games against Chicago.

Nov. 13 against Toronto, Harding can't start because he's not feeling well.

Nov. 13 against Toronto, Backstrom suffered a concussion when run by Nazem Kadri. Harding has to enter.

Nov. 23 at Winnipeg, Backstrom is activated off IR to back up first game after concussion. Kuemper reassigned. In warmups, Harding suffers muscle spasms. Backstrom is thrust into duty (Kuemper is rushed back from the airport and arrives in the first period on emergency status), Backstrom wins that game, has to start in St. Louis and against Phoenix.

Harding returns against Colorado on Nov. 29 and then has to start Nov. 30 because Backstrom is sick.

Harding leaves the team Dec. 18-29 to have “minor adjustment” to his multiple sclerosis treatment protocol.

Jan. 2 against Buffalo: Harding not feeling well, Kuemper called up.

Jan. 6: Harding placed on injured reserve

Jan. 7: Backstrom's abdominal issue is causing Kuemper to start on a team already missing Koivu, Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Harding.

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