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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Bryzgalov to make Wild debut tonight against the St. Louis Blues

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 9, 2014 - 6:01 PM

The Wild looks to rebound from last night's 4-3 loss at Dallas tonight against the red-hot St. Louis Blues.

Wild wasted what would have been a valuable two points last night when it coughed up a 3-2 third-period lead. The Wild went from potentially gaining a seven-point lead on Dallas and an eight-point lead on Phoenix to a three-point lead on Dallas and a six-point lead on Phoenix.

This with St. Louis on deck, a team that can leapfrog Anaheim for the top spot in the NHL with a win tonight. This is the first of three meetings with the Blues in the Wild's final 19 games and a potential first-round matchup. If the Wild makes the playoffs, it appears as if St. Louis or Anaheim would be the opponent.

The Blues have won 14 in a row against the Central Division and are 17-0-1 within the division. The Blues are 2-0 against the Wild this season and have won the past seven meetings, outscoring Minnesota 22-8 during the win streak.

Ilya Bryzgalov will make his Wild debut tonight. With Edmonton, he was 5-8-5 this season with a 3.01 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. He is 6-11-1 all-time vs. St. Louis with a 3.22 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.

Brian Elliott will start for St. Louis. He is 15-5-2 this season with a 2.08 goals-against average and 5-0 all-time vs. the Wild with a 1.83 goals-against average.

Same forward lines for the Wild tonight. Defenseman Nate Prosser will get back in for the Wild and Keith Ballard will be scratched. Yeo said the turnover that led to Erik Cole's winning goal last night played "no relevance," that this was the plan.

Yeo isn't fibbing. Yeo did indicated yesterday morning that Prosser would play tonight and with the big, bad Blues in town and their group of forechecking forwards, Clayton Stoner, the Wild's most physical defenseman, was obviously going to play.

Haula wasn't disciplined by the NHL for his charging major. He was tripped up by Cody Eakin. Still, that's a hard call for the official. Haula bulldozed over Kari Lehtonen, there's an obvious injury. That's a major. If that happened to Darcy Kuemper, you'd want a major.

My only issue is after the collision, Haula was attacked by the Stars. That's usually an area where the ref would at least give Trevor Daley, the first one in, a roughing minor to essentially make it a three-minute major.

It didn't happen, and like Yeo said after the game, the Wild did more than enough in that game to shoot itself in the collective foot. Now, it must bounce back tonight against a motivated team.

"We’re not looking to run the goaltender by any means," Yeo said of the Haula play. "We want to be aggressive to the net, taking pucks there, driving there with and without the puck. It was unfortunate the way things happened, but when I look at it again, I’m not sure what else he can do. You don’t want a player to bail out and not try to score a goal in that situation."
 
Lindy Ruff, the Stars' coach, called it a "dirt play" by a "fourth-liner." Obviously, Ruff is frustrated he lost his goaltender. If the tables were turned, I bet Yeo would have the same reaction if it was Kuemper.
 
The good thing for Dallas is Roberto Luongo was traded to Florida, so Tim Thomas waived his no-trade to go to Dallas for Dan Ellis. Lehtonen is indeed injured and not doing well. Can you imagine if Dallas, fighting for a playoff spot, had to rely on Ellis for an extended period? The Stars may have lucked out by acquiring Thomas.

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