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 excited to make NHL playoff debut against Colorado

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 16, 2014 - 6:21 PM

Finally, Game 1 is right around the corner between the Wild and Colorado Avalanche.

“The season ends, the playoffs begin, and it’s just a new feeling when you come to the rink,” coach Mike Yeo said today after the Wild skated at Magness Arena on the University of Denver campus. “We all feel it. We’re excited it’s upon us.”

Good early evening from beautiful Denver, where the weather’s nicer than Minnesota.

A reminder, I plan to hold a live Wild-Avs/NHL chat on startribune.com/wild at 3 p.m. CT Thursday. Please join in. Your employers and teachers give you permission (actually, to be safe, you better confirm that).

Wild second-line center Mikael Granlund will return to the lineup Thursday night and make his NHL playoff debut. The former Finnish Elite League champ with HIFK said it’s going to feel amazing.

The rest of the lineup is identical to what the lines and D pairs were on yesterday’s blog. Darcy Kuemper practiced for a second consecutive day, but Yeo said the Wild won’t decide until Thursday if Kuemper or John Curry will back up Ilya Bryzgalov.

The scratches will be Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, suspended Mike Rupp and John Blum. Keith Ballard practiced for a second day in a row and he’ll miss the game with a groin injury. Josh Harding is said to be fine, but since he’s not ready to play, he didn’t travel.

For Colorado, banged-up defenseman Jan Hejda practiced today and is expected to play.

I wrote a big, interesting story on Bryzgalov in Thursday’s Star Tribune, so definitely give that a read. I’ll also be doing a notebook on minute-muncher Ryan Suter, whom Patrick Roy said will be targeted in the series for physicality. That’s not something unexpected and in fact Yeo said the Avs’ defensemen, especially their banged-up ones (Tyson Barrie and Hejda), should expect the same from the Wild.

More on that in the paper.

From our stringer Michael Kelly (@berge19 on Twitter), he attended Avalanche Executive VP Joe Sakic’s presser today, and he passed along some comments:

SAKIC
 

(experience a factor in playoffs?) It depends on what type of team you have and also expectations. This is a team that expects a lot from themselves. We have some guys who are going to learn on the fly when it comes to first-time playoff experience, but I'm a big believer that if you play the right way and don't cheat out there, then you can have success. You can get that experience while winning. That's the best way to get that experience. The way the teamhas reacted all year, expecting more and playing with that consistency, is going to do them well in the playoffs. 

(what does it take to win?) At the end of the day, it's a grind and the team that outlasts the rest of them is going to win. You're going to have adverse times in the playoffs. The biggest thing is stick to what you know, stick to your game plan, stay resilient, battle for one another. As long as you stay on that same path, whether it's going great or you had a terrible game the night before, you got to wake up the next morning and there's a new game coming up and it's probably a game that's more important than the previous game. Stay even keel and forgetting what happened the night before and just getting ready and focus on the next one.

(what does he expect in playoffs?) You don't know how different players will handle it, but this is going to be a great experience for them. You can gain that experience and win hockey games at the same time. We know we have a tough opponent in Minnesota. just like us, they played unbelievable hockey down the stretch and they're playing their best hockey at the right time as well. It's going to be a great series.  


Lastly,


MINNESOTA WILD TO HOST PRE-GAME PARTIES OUTSIDE GATE 2 OF
XCEL ENERGY CENTER PRIOR TO GAMES 3 AND 4
 
    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild will hold a pre-game party outside Gate 2 of Xcel Energy Center prior to Games 3 and 4 on Monday, April 21, and Thursday, April 24.
 
    The pre-game party for Game 3 will begin at 4 p.m., with gametime at 6 p.m. For Game 4, the festitivies will run from 5-8 p.m., leading up to the 8:30 p.m. gametime. All fans at each game will receive a Wild playoff towel. In addition, 2003 Game 6 playoff hero Richard Park will be doing Let’s Play Hockey prior to Game 3, and Jim Dowd will do Let’s Play Hockey for Game 4.
 
Game 3 Pre-Game Party (4-5:30 p.m.)
Music from Five Man Advantage
Live broadcast from 100.3 FM KFAN’s Dan Barriero (3-6 p.m.)
Appearance by FOX Sports North Girls
Hockey Lodge booth (beginning at noon)
Photo Booth
Wild Plinko
Face Painters
$3 beer specials courtesy of Budweiser
Concessions
NHL Alumni autographs (Players TBD, 4:30-5:30 p.m.)
 
Game 4 Pre-Game Party (5-8 p.m.)
Live Music (DJ)
100.3 FM KFAN Live Broadcast (6:30-8 p.m.)
Appearance by FOX Sports North Girls
Hockey Lodge booth (beginning at noon)
Photo Booth
Wild Plinko
Face Painters
$3 beer specials courtesy of Budweiser
Concessions
NHL Alumni autographs (Players TBD, 6-7:30 p.m.)
 
 

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