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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Backstrom, Harding sidelined again; Blum, Gustafsson recalled

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild practice Updated: January 20, 2014 - 6:06 PM


Niklas Backstrom will be off the ice for a few days because he had another injection in what coach Mike Yeo is calling "a nagging lower-body injury," so the Wild has recalled Johan Gustafsson from AHL Iowa to back up Darcy Kuemper on Tuesday night in Dallas.

Also, Josh Harding, who practiced all last week, didn't practice today because Yeo said he's not feeling well again. Harding has missed nine consecutive games and 13 of the past 15 games since having a "minor adjustment" to his treatment for multiple sclerosis.

The net is Kuemper's for awhile, although Yeo expects Backstrom back for Wednesday's practice.

Kuemper has started four consecutive games and five of the past seven and is 4-1 in his past five with a 1.37 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

"Sometimes your third goalie is called upon to back up and maybe play a game here or there, but he’s been thrown into more of a starting role for us and he’s taken that opportunity,” Yeo said. “Good for him and good for us. I just read a quote the other day that opportunities multiply as they’re seized and he’s living by that right now."

Kuemper is confident he can run with the net if needed. The Wild has no back-to-backs before the Olympics and he reminded he's been a No. 1 goalie at every level he's ever played at.

"Things have been going pretty good, so I’m confident every time I go in there," Kuemper said. "With the situation right now, I’ve gotten an opportunity to play, so I just have to do my best to give the team a chance to win every night."

Kuemper's turn in net began in L.A. because Backstrom had a cortisone shot the day before for this injury.

In Phoenix a few days later, Backstrom, who missed last year’s playoffs with a sports hernia, admitted to me he played the final month last season with a “tear in the core muscle.”

Backstrom, who played 42 of 48 games last season because of Harding’s absence due to complications from multiple sclerosis, had previously maintained the injury he sustained in warmups of Game 1 against Chicago was the first time he experienced any discomfort.

Backstrom believes the abdominal stiffness he's experiencing is related to last year’s injury.

“You have a problem somewhere and you compensate with something else, so I think it’s from that and related,” Backstrom said in Phoenix. “But compared to yesterday, today was a big difference, so I feel it’s heading in the right direction. I’m getting to where I want to be.”

Yeo basically called the Wild's goaltending situation day-to-day, and something that will be evaluated daily.

That's been the case all season frankly, but this is the first time Backstrom and Harding have been sidelined together.

GM Chuck Fletcher has talked trade with other teams, but last week two goalies were taken off the market essentially when Devan Dubnyk was traded from Edmonton to Nashville and Ben Scrivens was acquired by Edmonton from L.A.

Internally, the team has talked about maybe signing Jose Theodore if it needs insurance eventually. Theodore is a free agent living in South Florida. He works out daily and has been going on the ice all season.

Again though, it's hard for Fletcher to proceed with everything so in flux. You can't afford to sit there and suddenly have three goalies sitting on the roster on a permanent basis.

Fletcher said today that with Kuemper playing well, the anticipation that Backstrom will be back Wednesday and the fact there's not a lot of games left before the Olympics, "we feel we can [currently] manage the situation."

Jon Blum has again been recalled to give the Wild an extra defenseman. Yeo would not say if he'd play in Dallas. Jonas Brodin is fine by the way from the high-stick the other night.

Yeo also wouldn't say if maybe Mike Rupp would play. Rupp did take some shifts on the fourth line today.

Zach Parise's non-contact yellow jersey is in the washing machine and he's wearing a real practice sweater again. He took part in some regular shifts today and took part in game-like situations and bumping. He'll get more reps in Wednesday's practice and Yeo said there's a chance he returns Thursday against Chicago. He is definitely coming on the upcoming four-game trip if for some reason he doesn't play the Blackhawks.

He did not fly with the team to Dallas.

Matt Cooke didn't want to touch the whole Jamie Benn not being suspended thing today. Interestingly, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Ottawa's owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray were spotted at NHL headquarters today and the assumption is Melnyk planned to submit his forensics investigation into his contention that Cooke purposely sliced Erik Karlsson's Achilles' tendon last season.

And no, this isn't a joke.


NY Mets - Z. Wheeler 12:10 PM
Miami - H. Alvarez
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 12:10 PM
Atlanta - J. Teheran
Boston - R. De La Rosa 12:10 PM
Tampa Bay - D. Smyly
Minnesota - P. Hughes 12:35 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Pittsburgh - G. Cole 1:15 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
Milwaukee - J. Nelson 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner
Detroit - D. Price 3:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Kluber
Seattle - C. Young 3:05 PM
Oakland - J. Hammel
San Francisco 2 Suspended
Colorado 2
Arizona - T. Cahill 3:10 PM
San Diego - T. Ross
San Francisco - T. Hudson 4:40 PM
Colorado - F. Morales
Washington - G. Gonzalez 7:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Texas - C. Lewis 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12:00 PM
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Indiana 3:00 PM





question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters