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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Here we go again: Another do or die for the Wild

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: May 12, 2014 - 6:02 PM

It’s déjà vu.

Two Mondays ago, the Wild faced the old sports’ do-or-die, must-win situation when it hosted the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 down 3-2 in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals series.

Zach Parise scored two goals and two assists in the Wild’s win to force Game 7, and you know the rest.

Tuesday night, at an overstuffed Xcel Energy Center, the Wild will face the same scenario against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Win, force a Game 7 at 7 p.m. Thursday at the United Center. Lose, seeya in September.

The Wild had an optional practice in St. Paul today and of the players we saw, guys like Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter and of course Mike Yeo, spirits were good and the demeanor was confident, especially since Game 6 will come at home, where the Wild is 5-0 and has outscored Colorado and Chicago 16-5.

Of course, the Blackhawks don’t want to take their chances in a Game 7. The Blackhawks are 11-2 in clinching games in the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane era, an era that has had a modicum of success.

Not much going on news-wise:

Chicago’s Andrew Shaw will miss his fifth game this series.

Matt Moulson and Keith Ballard skated today for the Wild.

Asked if either could play Tuesday, coach Mike Yeo said, “I wouldn’t be surprised, no, so like I said, we’ll see how the skate goes out here today and obviously, we’ll use that as a determination as to whether these guys are available for tomorrow.”

I’d be surprised if Moulson played simply because -- who comes out? Won’t be any of the top-6 forwards. I wouldn’t think it would be for Justin Fontaine. I can’t imagine it’d be for Dany Heatley and Cody McCormick, to me, has been very good.

And Ballard, I haven’t spoken to him, but his head hit the glass fairly hard in Game 4.

Here’s some quotes from today.

Mike Yeo on home ice: “There’s no question that we fed off our fans. We’ve asked our players to step their games up as the playoffs have gone on and it seems like our fans have bought right into that too, because every game seems to somehow get a little bit louder, a little bit more emotion in the building. So, I’m expecting a lot of the same tomorrow. I’m expecting our group to feed off it again, but at the same time, I think that we’ve been able to understand that we can’t just expect things to go the same way when we’re coming home. We went out and we’ve made it that way. We’ve pushed the issue. We’ve forced the issue. We’ve played aggressive and we’ve played, and that’s what we need to make sure we’re ready to do tomorrow.”

Ryan Suter was peppered with questions today. He was real good, which you can read in Tuesday’s paper.

But here’s some good color:

On the Wild always making life difficult on itself: “I think we like the challenge. We always seem to make things harder than it needs to be. I don’t know if that’s a good thing to do, but it seems throughout the year that’s kind of been the way we’ve gone about it making things harder. We’d be up three of four goals, then let the other team back in it. That’s how it’s been, that’s how it is now and tomorrow is do or die.
 

On how banged up players are: “I think it’s mental. Every single guy in that locker room every single guy in their locker room has issues right now. But it’s a mental thing and you have to overcome that if you want to win, that’s why it’s the hardest trophy to win in the world.”

I asked if how bad his “issue” (from his collision with Marian Hossa in Game 3): “They’re alright.”

Unspoken rule to play through injuries in the playoffs: “You hear stories about the guys that have won before and the things that they go through. I think that’s why it is so hard. That’s why it’s so fun to be a part of because you know the reward at the end.”
 

On home ice, Suter had a funny line: “The atmosphere. The building has been electric. The fans have been unbelievable. I’m sure they’re having a good time with the late starts (smiles). Everything, it’s been a lot of fun for us. We’re driving to the rink and you see the excitement outside the rink, and we just build off that.”

You tired? “It’s mental. I’m sure when it’s all done, time for some rest. It’s mental. I’m excited. I want to win. Everyone in that locker room, we keep pushing each other. There’s no time to be tired right now.”

Of course, we circled back around to what’s wrong with him.

Colleague Chip Scoggins asked him if his shoulder is screwed up. “My shoulder’s not,” Suter said.

So of course, I chimed in, “Elbow?”

“I’m feeling great (laughing),” Suter said, before looking at PR guy Aaron Sickman for the all-clear that he could leave the front of the backdrop.

Was a funny back and forth.

Similarly, I basically asked Mikko Koivu is his ankle is still an issue: “No, it took obviously a lot longer than I thought when we talked about it, but now it’s been good.”

OK, that’s it for me. I came right to the arena from the airport and would love to get home. Talk to ya after the morning skates Tuesday. I’ll probably be on KFAN in the morning at some point.

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