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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Updates on Wild's injuries and goalie trifecta heading into tonight's game vs. Dallas

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 18, 2014 - 12:08 PM

Happy Hockey Day Minnesota everybody.

Wild and the Minnesota’s former NHL team, the Dallas Stars, will face off tonight at 8 p.m. at the X. That’s also known as a deadline nightmare on a Saturday night! This is the first of a home-and-home that ends in Dallas on Tuesday. Dallas is eight points behind the Wild is 10th place.

Darcy Kuemper (3-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .917 save percentage) will make his fourth consecutive start and it’ll come against Kari Lehtonen (17-13-7 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .916 save percentage). Banged-up Ray Whitney and Sergei Gonchar will both play for Dallas.

The Wild is 6-2 this month, the Stars are 1-7. I was just chatting with Stars coach Lindy Ruff and he said it started with a flu bug and has just compounded from there. It’s now a matter of rediscovering their game, which is difficult in a compressed schedule where there are limited practices (because of the condensed schedule AND the new four mandatory days off per month) and you don’t know how hard to push a team when there happens to be a practice.

Sound familiar? Ruff voiced the words of almost every coach I’ve spoken to lately, so you can see, it’s not just Mike Yeo who talks about the difficulty of coaching right now.

Here’s one for ya: The other night, Edmonton played in Dallas and had a planned day off in Minnesota the next day. But, instead of getting a good night sleep in Dallas and flying to St. Paul in the morning, the Oilers were forced to fly immediately after the game to Minnesota so the schedule day off would actually count as one of the mandatory days off. In other words, a chartered flight with incredible food and first-class seats would have counted as a working day if the Oilers had flown in on the off-day.

Bizarre.

Same lineup tonight for the Wild, meaning Mike Rupp is the lone scratch for the ninth straight game and 17th time in the past 20. I say “lone” because defenseman Jon Blum was, likely temporarily, reassigned.

Blum wasn’t playing tonight and with a scheduled day off Sunday, the Wild sent him to Iowa to play this afternoon. With Jared Spurgeon’s return still off in the distance, I’d assume Blum gets recalled again next week because the Wild would probably want to bring an extra defenseman on the four-game trip to San Jose, Anaheim, Denver and Calgary.

We’ll see.

Zach Parise skated again today and said he thinks he’ll ramp it up in Monday’s practice and begin bumping and being more involved in game-like situations in practice. He’ll miss his 13th game tonight and won’t play in Dallas on Tuesday, so the soonest he could come back is Thursday against Chicago. We’ll see if that’s pushing it, but if he does start practicing fully Monday, that would give him Monday and Wednesday practices.

I’m not sure if that’s enough though. My gut says he’ll be back Thursday or in Saturday’s game at San Jose. He did tell me he plans on going on the four-game road trip.

Spurgeon skated on his own for the first time today.

The big question right now is what’s going to happen with the Wild’s goalie situation.

Kuemper starts tonight. It sounds like the Wild really would want Josh Harding to eventually agree to go to Iowa on a conditioning stint. The team has been vague.

Harding has practiced all week and looks good.

Yeo said the team will “keep going day to day and figure out how he’s feeling. He’s making progress and he looks good and I’m kind of waiting for a final word or a little bit more information as far as what I’m told from the trainers and the doctors and when he can progress from there.”

On Iowa, Yeo said, “I don’t know. It depends on what we need and what we really determine he needs.”

I asked Yeo if the Wild could conceivably have three goalies on its 23-man roster if Kuemper keeps winning.

Yeo said, “If he keeps winning games, we’re not going to send him down. I can’t see why we would do that. These things always have a way of sorting themselves out. We can’t start looking too far ahead.”

I keep getting questions if the Wild may trade Backstrom. First off, with two more years left on his deal, I’m not sure the team could. Secondly, I don’t know how if you’re Chuck Fletcher you can risk trading Backstrom with Harding’s health situation so uncertain.

So my guess is the Wild will just have to ride this out for a bit. If the Wild’s three goalies keep winning games, it’s not a big deal at all. Remember, Backstrom has won three of four with maybe his best outing in a few seasons two starts ago at Phoenix.

That’s it for now. I’ll be on Fox Sports North around 12:30 p.m.

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St. Louis 5
Washington 9 Top 8th Inning
Atlanta 8
Miami 5 Top 9th Inning
Boston 3
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 4 Top 7th Inning
Philadelphia 0
Baltimore 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Toronto 2
Detroit 4 Top 8th Inning
NY Mets 4
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Los Angeles 7 Top 3rd Inning
Milwaukee 0
San Francisco 7 Bottom 2nd Inning
Texas 0
Chicago WSox 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
San Diego 0
Kansas City 2 Top 2nd Inning
Cleveland 4
Seattle 2 Top 4th Inning
Los Angeles 2
Colorado 0 Top 3rd Inning
LA Angels 1
Oakland 2 Bottom 2nd Inning
Arizona 0
Pittsburgh 6:05 PM
NY Yankees
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Orlando
Utah 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Miami 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Boston 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Detroit 7:00 PM
Houston
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Memphis
Phoenix 7:00 PM
Brooklyn
Denver 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Dallas 9:30 PM
Golden State
Columbus 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 6:30 PM
Detroit
Edmonton 7:30 PM
Chicago
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 68 FINAL
Char Southern 60
Ark-Pine Bluff 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Southern Ill 45 FINAL
Wichita State 56
Winthrop 34 2nd Half 13:54
Radford 33
Evansville 15 1st Half 14:07
Illinois State 13
Towson 5:00 PM
Elon
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
High Point
Samford 5:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Ball State
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Buffalo
Brown 6:00 PM
Dartmouth
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Kent State
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Bradley 6:05 PM
Northern Iowa
Morehead State 6:30 PM
Murray State
UNC-Asheville 7:00 PM
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Harvard
Furman 7:30 PM
Citadel
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
Drexel
Texas Tech 8:00 PM
Baylor
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San Francisco
Detroit 8:30 PM
Cleveland State
Belmont 8:30 PM
Eastern Ky
Loyola-Chicago 8:35 PM
Indiana State
Loyola Marymount 10:30 PM
Santa Clara
Chicago 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
(21) George Washington 77
Wake Forest 68 FINAL
(16) Duke 77
Furman 55 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 68
Monmouth 61 FINAL
Quinnipiac 82
Michigan State 60 FINAL
(4) Maryland 70
Belmont 65 FINAL
UT Martin 71
Arkansas 36 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 58
Mercer 56 FINAL
East Tenn St 66
Miami-Florida 61 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Richmond 43 2nd Half 0:45
Fordham 44
Siena 44 2nd Half 10:07
Iona 47
Washington St 22 2nd Half 15:45
(9) Arizona State 29
Ark-Pine Bluff 37 2nd Half 11:49
Miss Valley St 32
(23) Rutgers 30 1st Half 2:41
(24) Northwestern 21
Tennessee St 31 2nd Half
SIU-Edwardsville 28
Loyola Marymount 23 2nd Half
Gonzaga 28
(18) Texas A&M 10 1st Half 9:33
LSU 24
Cincinnati 3:00 PM
UCF
Saint Josephs 3:30 PM
Dayton
UCLA 4:00 PM
(19) Stanford
Santa Clara 4:30 PM
San Diego
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
(7) Florida State
SMU 5:00 PM
Memphis
Lehigh 5:05 PM
Holy Cross
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
(20) Fla Gulf Coast
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Stetson
Nebraska 6:00 PM
(14) Iowa
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Marist
Navy 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Lafayette 6:00 PM
American Univ
Colgate 6:00 PM
Army
Georgia 6:00 PM
(5) Tennessee
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
Brown
Penn 6:00 PM
Columbia
(13) Princeton 6:00 PM
Cornell
Kansas 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Harvard 6:00 PM
Yale
(15) North Carolina 7:00 PM
(10) Louisville
San Jose St 7:00 PM
UNLV
Houston 7:00 PM
Tulane
Utah State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Colorado 8:00 PM
(8) Oregon State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Minnesota 8:25 PM
Ohio State
(12) Kentucky 8:25 PM
(11) Miss State
San Diego State 8:30 PM
Nevada
Niagara 8:30 PM
Fairfield
Texas Tech 8:30 PM
West Virginia
Boise State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Washington 10:30 PM
California

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