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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Flyers 6, Wild 1; Richards to break up Koivu-Brunette?; Sheppard speaks for first time

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 24, 2010 - 11:04 PM

Good evening from an empty Xcel Energy Center. 

First, couple odds and ends before I forget:

-- Marek Zidlicky missed tonight's game with a leg injury. He'll be evaluated again for Friday's game vs. Nashville

-- Wild, which is $585,000 from the cap ceiling before putting guys on LTIR if they need, may send a forward to the minors Thursday (Matt Kassian or Robbie Earl)

-- Injured James Sheppard talked to us tonight during the first intermission. It was the first time he talked publicly since his Sept. 4 ATV accident derailed his season. Here is the link the story and notebook

As for tonight, not an easy one to write with Thanksgiving deadlines, not to mention writing Sheppard story in the second period. After the game, because of the tight deadline, it's kinda whatever comes to your mind in 10 minutes, you get into your laptop and live to fight another day.

Coach Todd Richards painted a prettier picture on this one than I suspected he would. But when you dissected what he said, he wasn't that far off. The score looks like a total romp, and it did feel like it since the Wild was chasing from the moment Philly built a 2-0 lead by 5:32 in.

But 2 things killed the Wild tonight:

1) The Wild's a minute from getting out of the second period down 2-1, and a bad change and blue-line mishap results in a Danny Briere goal with 59.3 seconds left in the second. So instead of going into the third down by 1, you're down by 2 again.

2) Down 3-1 on a power play, the Wild had 2 bona fide chances to cut it to 1. The first, Martin Havlat was robbed by Sergei Bobrovsky. The second, Matt Cullen ripped a shot from between the circles wide. Moments later, Cam Barker fumbles the puck at the blue line and former St. Cloud Husky Andreas Nodl makes it 4-1 on a shorthanded breakaway. Then, bang-bang, it's 6-1 3:25 later with 8:48 still to go in the game.

Richards felt if they score on that power play, different game. True. But when you're a team that's offensively-challenged, you usually don't score in big situations.

What epitomized this game was Nodl scoring on the breakaway and Patrick O'Sullivan missing on his in the second. O'Sullivan was the guy who cut it to 2-1 though on his first goal with the Wild, ironically in front of the two men who drafted him -- Doug Risebrough and Tommy Thompson, who were in the house scouting for the Rangers.

But the Wild also blew at least 3 2-on-1's, two led by Madden (minus-3). The Wild also had 16 shots on goal and missed 17 nets, according to the final stat sheet.

But the Flyers are a far superior team and showed their depth. As Madden said, they've got 30-goal scorers on every line. The Wild, well, the Wild might not have a 20-goal scorer on one line at least this year.

The Wild made it way too easy for a team as good as Philly. They handed them at least four goals. The first was a bit controversial. The Wild felt Niklas Backstrom had the puck covered before James van Riemsdyk scored.

Backstrom gave up at least 10 goals in back to back home starts for the first time ever and the Wild gave up at least 11 at home in consecutive games for the first time since giving up 13 in Oct. 2001. It was the first time the Wild gave up six in a game at home since Dec. 1, 2008.

Mikko Koivu, I felt, again struggled. Two shots, minus-2, giveaways. He's got the captain's C on his chest. He's their on-ice leader, one of their best players. He's got to create something, and he just hasn't done a lot the last month (yes I'm aware he tied the Detroit game with 1:23 left). He also doesn't seem to be skated very well.

Andrew Brunette, who's got one goal in the past 15 games, didn't have a shot and again is having trouble making things mesh even-strength with his linemates. Richards admitted after he was concerned about Koivu and Brunette, said the coaching staff has been kicking around breaking them apart for a bit now and will talk about it again at practice Thursday.

Eleven of the Wild's 18 skaters were minus-2 or worse. Here's a telling stat: Sixteen Wild players are minus; none on Philly.

The Wild's now scored 47 goals (2.35 goals per game) and has been outshot in every game but one.

That's it. I may blog Thursday, but not positive. Kent Youngblood's covering his first Wild game in years Friday as I head to Denver early. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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